Feast of the Santo Niño (C)

  • January 16, 2022

views/img/homily/H26/269.jpgThe devotion to the Santo Niño is one of the oldest and most popular devotions in the Philippines. Observed all over the country, the feast of the Santo Niño is colorfully celebrated in varied ways, expressive of the particular love and affection of different regions.

The immense popularity of the Santo Niño can easily be understood, even from the human point of view. A child is naturally attractive. His innocence and simplicity can totally disarm us and bring out the best in us. In his presence the animal in us is tamed, and his smile can tenderize the hardest of heart. Such is the power of a child.

We know however that the Santo Niño is no ordinary child. He is a Holy Child, the Son of God. Thus, we cannot imagine how infinitely more powerful the Santo Niño must be.

Allow me to share some personal thoughts and learnings from the Santo Niño. I think that when Jesus invites us to learn from him because he is meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29), he is somehow summoning to look to the Santo Niño. For it is from the Holy Child that we can learn how to be holy children ourselves.

I am particularly edified by three natural qualities of a child which the Santo Niño brings to an altogether different level: his humility, trust and sense of joy.

The child is naturally humble because he knows he has absolutely nothing. He makes no claim or pretension to any power or possession. His state of helplessness is a given. Thus, the humility of a child is instinctive. In contrast, the humility of the Santo Niño is willed and deliberate.

“Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Ph 2:6-8)

Living in a culture, steeped in pride, arrogance and greed for power, we certainly have much to learn from a God who divests himself of his divinity in order to become one of us, little and humble.

Another proverbial quality of a child is his trust. Totally dependent for all his needs, the child entrusts himself completely to others. Since he is just beginning his life without any prior experience, his trust is absolute. Unfortunately, he also becomes easily vulnerable to abuse by the adult. The child is naturally trusting because he is naïve; he does not know man.

But God knows man. He knows us better than we know ourselves. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar… (Ps 139:2)” And still he trusts us. In the Santo Niño, he made himself small so he could put himself in our hands. Even though he knows who we are, he entrusts himself to us unconditionally.

During his passion and death, Jesus literally surrendered himself into the hands of wicked men. As he was being arrested, he offered no resistance, not because he was overpowered but because he willed it. “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” (Jn 10:18) To trust in man – what divine madness!

Jesus surrenders himself also to us unconditionally, as he does when he gives himself in Holy Communion. We can receive him worthily or unworthily, and he does not resist. How many times we have betrayed him, and still he continues to trust in us. What divine madness, indeed! Yet, it is this madness that has won our sanity and salvation, for salvation is possible only when we surrender ourselves to God. Because God has first surrendered himself to us, we now have the courage, willingness and love to surrender ourselves to him.

Finally, the sense of wonder in a child is the source of the joy he finds in everything he sees and touches. For him everything is new and magical.

God looks at his creation with the same wonder and joy. The Bible tells us that at the close of each day of creation, God gazed at his work and “saw that it was good.” In the end, he created humankind and “saw that it was very good.” God never ceases to wonder at his work, above all, at man, the crown of his creation.

“In the eyes of a child there is joy, there is laughter

There is hope, there is trust, a chance to shape the future

For the lessons of life there is no better teacher

Than the look in the eyes of a child.” (Air Supply)

Even more so, there is no better teacher than the look in the eyes of the HOLY CHILD.

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