Second Sunday After Epiphany – Fraternal Charity
My dear children: St. Paul in his epistle tells us that we are all brethren, although we may have different gifts. Therefore, we should love one another with the charity of brotherhood.
God has given each and every one of us different talents. We are to perform various duties: some to nurse the sick; some to take care of household; while others are to be teachers, doctors, lawyers, and so forth. No matter what we are, we have particular duties which we must fulfil. For instance, your father and mother must preserve good discipline among their children. They have duties regarding your temporal and spiritual welfare,—great and important duties, often difficult and trying to nature, but God gives them the necessary grace to discharge these duties faithfully, if they earnestly implore it. Try, dear children, to lighten their labor by your docility and obedience. Imitate the young Tobias in the respect with which he received the counsels of his aged father, and the fidelity with which he copied the example of his virtues. You will then grow up as he did, the glory and consolation of your parents.
The High Priest Heli had two sons, Ophni and Phinees, who, by their sinful lives, profaned their sacred office, and were the cause of grievous scandal to the people. In vain were complaints of their bad conduct made to their father; a weak and sinful indulgence prevented him from correcting these abuses and chastising the offenders. At length the anger of God was aroused, and He announced to the holy child Samuel, then living in the temple, the terrible judgment which was about to fall upon the High Priest and his family, because he knew that his sons did evil and did not chastise them.
In the battle of the Philistines against the Israelites, Ophni and Phinees were among the slain. Now old and blind, the High Priest sat at the door of his house, anxiously awaiting news of the battle. A soldier of the tribe of Benjamin approached and in hurried words told him that there had been a great slaughter of the people, that his two sons were among the slain, and that the ark of God was taken. At this dread news, Heli fell backwards from the stool on which he was sitting, broke his neck and died.
Thus did the vengeance of God fall, the very same day, on the two wicked sons and their weak and indulgent father.
No matter what our gifts, we should love all our brethren. Though we notice that one boy or girl is very smart, and another rather stupid, yet we must have the kindliest feelings towards each of them.
The Scribes and Pharisees pretended to be the greatest friends of Jesus; they praised Him to His face, listened to His sermons, an invited Him to their table; but all the while their hearts, full of deceit and cunning, were devising means to destroy Him. This was hypocritical love. Many children act in the same way. They make a great fuss about their neighbor to his face, whilst in their hearts they feel an aversion for him; they envy him under the mask of friendship.
Jesus Christ has elevated us to the dignity of children of God. Therefore we are all brethren. Why should we not then practise brotherly love? Brothers and sisters entertain the kindest feelings toward one another, and share with each other pleasure and sorrow. And so it should be. But we must do more than that. Have you never heard of St. Vincent de Paul? There was no kind of distress foreign to his charity. Christians who were slaves to the Turks; children who had been exposed by their parents; or orphans who had no one to take care of them,—strangers who had succumbed to disease, the insane, and numberless others, all found in him a helper and a refuge. All the saints, though not in as great a degree as St. Vincent de Paul, have practised this brotherly love, and Christian charity.
Cunigunda, a poor widow, would every day, before she sat down to her spinning-wheel, repeat her morning prayer with great devotion, and then read in her prayer book.
One day the subject of her meditation was charity. “But, my God!” said she, “how can I do good to others? I have nothing in the world by which to maintain myself except my spinning-wheel, and that scarcely earns for me my daily bread. Winter is now at the door, and I have not even a sufficient store of coal laid by. My fingers are already so stiff that I can scarcely spin. Besides, my rent is not yet paid. I, myself, will have to go out begging.”
“Still there may be some good I can do,” she thought to herself. Then she remembered that at the other end of the town there lived a girlhood friend of hers who was quite sick.
“I will visit her. to-day,” she said. “I can spin there as well as here; and perhaps I shall be able to say to her a few comforting words.”
Thereupon, taking a couple of apples, which she had received as a present a little while before, she set out with her spinning-wheel.
The sick woman was greatly delighted when she saw her old friend.
“How fortunate, Cunigunda,” said she, “I have just inherited a few hundred dollars. Could you not come to me, and be my nurse? You would then save fuel and rent; and your spinning, and my little inheritance, would well suffice to maintain us both.”
Gladly accepting the proposal, Cunigunda changed her abode without delay, and theneceforth, for the first time in many months, was free from care. Very often did she recall to mind the lesson she had learned from her prayer book: “Let each passing day be known by some deed of mercy shown; thus thy page of life shall prove one bright calendar of love.”
Children, it is very hard to bear things that are disagreeable to our nature. Our neighbor sometimes places a condition upon us which is very irksome. It is then we need the virtue of patience,—patience in the various trials and sufferings God sends us. He who wishes to be saved must do the will of God, but we cannot accomplish all that His Holy Will requires of us without bearing our difficulties patiently. The history of Tobias and Job gives us two beautiful examples.
The love of our neighbor is the principal commandment of Christ; we cannot please God if we despise any of our fellow men.