YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 2ND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: BE LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Feast of Santo Niño
After the baptism of his baby brother in church, four-year old Robbie was crying all the way home in the car. His father was worried and asked him what was wrong. The boy revealed the cause of his profound grief. “The priest said he wanted us brought up in a Christian home. And I don’t want to be in any other home. I wanted to stay with you, guys.” Perhaps the boy thought the priest was talking of another home. A three-year-old boy recited the prayer he just learned from his Mom: “And forgive us our trash baskets as we forgive those who put trash in our baskets.” Sins, after all, are garbage.
It is always a great experience listening to the simple but profound wit and humor of children. This Sunday, we gather together in the presence of the greatest Child of all, the Holy Infant Jesus, the Santo Niño.
Filipinos have exceptionally strong devotion to the Santo Niño. And this is the reason why the Holy See granted to the Philippines a special permission to celebrate the Feast of the Santo Niño every third Sunday of January. It is, therefore, important to make sure that we all understand the real meaning of this devotion. In the first place, the devotion to the Santo Niño is inextricably linked with the history of the Filipino people. One may wonder why the Philippines, surrounded by non-Christian countries, is the only Christian nation (i.e., aside from the tiny East Timor) in Asia. This highlights the fact that we are a nation specially loved by God for having received the gift of faith from the Spanish missionaries. And the first wave of missionaries came with the great circumnavigator, Magellan, who offered as a gift to the king and queen of Cebu the image of the Santo Niño. In short, this devotion is particularly dear to the Filipinos since this is the first religious image that set foot on Philippine soil. It is the concrete historical icon that marked the beginning of Christianity in the Philippines.
Secondly, this devotion has profound theological significance, especially in relation to the Mystery of the Incarnation. The Second Person of God took on our human nature. He is true God, and at the same time, true Man. As true Man, he became like us in all things, except sin. The image of the Santo Niño is a clear expression of our belief in the God-made-Man. Jesus Christ passed through each and every stage of human life, becoming like a child, simple and humble, to show us the way back to the heavenly Father.
And finally, this devotion is very much in line with the Lord’s exhortation in the Gospel: “Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mk 10:15). The image of the Santo Niño conveys to us the all-important lesson of becoming child-like in order to enter God’s kingdom. Like the two boys in our story, we are reminded, “You be Jesus!” It is, after all, the essential meaning of being Christian – we must be like Jesus. And the way to do this is to emulate the attitude of a little child.
Basically, we can mention three attitudes of a child: humility, obedience and trust. These traits are easily perceptible in little children, but are very difficult and unattractive for adults. When we tend to be engrossed in our achievements and accomplishments, the image of a child reminds us to be humble, for “whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:12). The most basic foundation in Christian holiness is humility. As a building cannot go up higher without a strong and deep foundation underneath, so also it is impossible to grow in holiness without an abundant supply of profound humility.
The second virtue is obedience. As we grow older, we hold on to our rights, freedom and prerogatives. We insist on our power and independence. We instinctively resist any interference or threat to our freedom and autonomy. We find it detestable to submit our will to somebody else. Hence, it is quite understandable that, for many of us, obedience is never an attractive virtue. The image of a child is presented to us so that we will always be reminded that, notwithstanding our status and position in life, we still are God’s children. And so, we have to submit ourselves in humble obedience to the will of the heavenly Father. In his agony in the garden, Jesus gave us the perfect example of an obedient Son. He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” (Lk 22:42). It is true that obedience does not appeal to adults for it runs counter to our human rights and freedom. Yet, obedience to God enhances our rights and freedom as His children and inheritors of the kingdom.
Ultimately, as St. Thomas Aquinas said, “Obedience unites us so closely to God that in a way transforms us into Him, so that we have no other will but His.” St. Ignatius of Loyola said, “It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey.”
And finally, the virtue of trust and dependence on God is evident in a child. This is not also attractive to adults who place so much value on self-sufficiency. We want to have control over everything in our life, with our intricate plans and avowed expertise in every aspect of human affairs. But the Lord reminds us: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). For, indeed, “unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build” (Ps 127:1).
Our devotion to the Santo Niño should lead us to follow more closely the example of Jesus, the humble, obedient and trustful Son of God. As the Holy Child reminds us to become better children of God, we are also challenged to give ample attention to the welfare and protection of all the children in our midst.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs, Susano Road Camarin, Caloocan City 1422