Is 9:1-6; Eph 1:3-6,15-18; Matt 18:1-5,10
There was a story of a mother heavily indebted to a lady friend, come up with a morbid in order to escape payment. The lady friend is calling her up that day. She called her seven-year old daughter, named Monique. The mother told Monique: “Monique, when a lady calls me up, tell her I just die.” And Monique said: “Yes, mother.”
The telephone rang. Kringgg! Monique got the auditable and said, ”Hello, who is on the line, please?”
“Ah, I am a friend of your mother. Is she there?” answered the lady. “Oh, she just died,” Monique answered.
“I’m sorry to hear that, I didn’t know. When is the funeral?” The lady asked.
“For awhile please…. Mommy, mommy, she wants to know when is your funeral?” asked Monique.
Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Santo Nino, one of the favorite images about Jesus Christ by the Filipino people. We, Filipinos love the Holy Child Jesus (Santo Nino) so much. He is very popular among us. Rich and poor alike maintain a strong, almost fanatical devotion to the Holy Child. Fiestas and processions are held in His honor. Statues and images have various forms and we dress Him up in royal robes, in police and fireman uniforms and many more. We have endearing names like Santo Nino de Suerte, Santo Nino Lagalag, Santo Nino na Sumasayaw, Santo de Cebu and many others. The image of the Child Jesus is displayed almost everywhere: in market stalls and business establishments, in public and private offices, in buses and jeepneys, private cars and in homes.
But why Santo Nino is so appealing to most of us Filipinos? Is it the innocence and simplicity that the Child Jesus conveys? How did the devotion come about? Does it have any basis in the Bible and theology? What does the devotion teach us?
The devotion to the Santo Nino can be traced back to the city of Prague in Czechoslovakia. A Spanish princess gifted the Carmelites with a 19-inch statue of the Child Jesus. The image of the Holy Child dressed in royal robes caught the attention of the people and they liked it. There were those who claimed to have received certain favors through the invocation of the Child Jesus. The number of devotees grew and, in no time, the devotion spread throughout Europe.
The devotion came to the Philippines in 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan gave Juana, the queen of Cebu, a statue of the Santo Nino as a baptismal gift. The image would later be known as El Santo Nino de Cebu. In 1565, Legazpi and a group of Augustinians arrived and found this image in a hut. It was clear that it was the object of veneration by the people. The Augustinians took the image and installed in Cebu Basilica and later enshrined there. It was declared patron of the First Spanish Christian settlement in the Philippines. From this site, the devotion to the Santo Nino would spread throughout the archipelago.
Scripture tells us that the Son of God became incarnate to save us from evil and sin. He took the form of a lowly and humble infant. This devotion to the Santo Nino teaches us to be like a child. In today’s gospel pericope, Jesus places a child in the midst of the disciples and said: “Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven,’ (v.3).
There are many endearing qualities of a child like the power to wonder, the power to forgive and forget even when adults treat him unjustly and the ability to learn. But there are three most important characteristics which make him a symbol of a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.
First is humility. The child does not like top push himself/herself into the limelight but rather stay at the background. It is the parents who are interested to push him/her to prominence. We let them join for a beauty contest, modeling, high positions and others.
Second is dependence. The child is contented t be dependent on those who care and love him/her. This is seen as the child puts his/her hand trustingly on the big hands of his/her parents, as they are about to cross the street.
The third, related to the second, is trust. He does not look for money to buy food but rather he/she trusts his/her parents to do it for him/her.
So today’s feast of Santo Nino, we are called by God to be child-like with these three characteristics and not childish.
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A