Sto. Niño              

            Today is the Feast of the Sto. Niño – Feast of the Child Jesus. Today’s gospel reading is somehow giving us the meaning, relevance and significance of this feast in these words: “People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them.” As we celebrate this feast, we are bringing, literally, and figuratively, our children to the presence of Sto. Niño. This is exactly what the Lord Jesus wants: “Let the children come to me.” And he wants them to come to him to embrace them, to bless them, to place his hands on them.

            It is the duty of parents to bring their children to the Lord to be blessed. What I am talking about is not just bringing the children to the church and asking the priest to bless them by putting his hands on them. And the blessing I am referring to (the blessing they need)is not just the material and physical blessings and favors. “Bringing our children” to the Lord has a profound meaning. It means helping them to have a deep, intimate, personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. It means teaching them to put the Lord Jesus at the center of their lives. It means making them realize and accept their total dependence on God. Bringing our children to the Lord to be blessed means helping them to receive God’s grace – letting them share or participate in God’s life. Parents, this is your most important duty to your children.

            However, today’s celebration (and its message) is not just for children. Jesus says, “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Jesus sees a child as the fitting symbol of a person who has the proper disposition to accept or receive the kingdom of God and enter it. Since entrance to the kingdom is neither merited nor achieved, but is freely given as God’s gift, the child is the perfect disciple who receives God’s gift on God’s terms. The child is the symbol of someone who wants to earn the kingdom… someone who stands before God empty-handed and unpretentious… someone with nothing to offer in exchange for the gift. Jesus presents to us the child as the symbol of unconditional trust, dependence, and humility. And the Lord calls us to possess these qualities.

            The simple message of today’s gospel reading is: Become like little children! Just as the child needs other people to provide for its needs, Christ’s disciples must have the same sense of total dependence on God. Jesus says that the disciples need a change of mentality – from wanting to be first, acting great toward others, lording it over them, to being like little children: poor, simple, unassuming, open, trusting, and humble.

            Basically, what Jesus means is that the kingdom of God is not about what we ourselves achieve, but accepting what God has done for us. This is why a child is set before us as the best example to follow – because children are known to be very accepting of whatever is done to them and for them. And just as the child needs other people to provide for its needs, we must have the same sense of total dependence on God.

            Hindi ito nangangahulugan na uupo o tutunganga na lang tayo at hayaan na lang natin na ang Panginoong Diyos ang siyang gumawa ng mga bagay-bagay para sa atin. What it means is that we must realize that it is only by his grace that we are able to do all that we do. Indeed, it is in our childlike weakness and helplessness that God becomes our strength and our help. It is in our childlike powerlessness that God’s power works in us and through us.

            Jesus asks nothing more than our acceptance of the deepest truth about ourselves: the truth that we are children of God. No matter how much we possess, how much we accomplish, how much our power or high position allows us to manage reality, how much apparent influence we have over our own destinies or over the circumstances of the lives of other people, the truth of the matter is we are not in control. Everything we have, everything we are, is a gift of God. We are creatures, absolutely dependent on God for all. Before God, we are (and should be) like little children, not like powerful grown-ups. “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”

            Let us end with a prayer: Divine Infant Jesus, Señor Sto. Niño, we thank You for becoming like us… we thank you for embracing each of us. Teach us to be like a child, to be like You – humble and totally dependent on God. Make us always realize this profound truth: that it is in our childlike powerlessness and helplessness that God’s power works in us and through us. Amen.

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