[2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, Feast of Sto. Niño, Jan 17, 2016 / Isa 9:1-6 / Ps 97:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6 / Eph 1:3-6, 15-18 / Luke 2:41-52]
IN the Philippines today a very famous festival is celebrated – the fiesta of Santo Nino, the feast of the Holy Child. The devotion began after the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan gave a statue of the child Jesus to the chieftain of Cebu and his wife. This original figure of the child Jesus is today held in the Basilica of the Santo Nino in Cebu and is the focus of a huge celebration every year on the third Sunday of January.
The gospel reading associated with the feast is when Jesus blesses the children after the disciples have tried to stop the little ones coming to him (Mark 10:13-16). This feast is a joyful one but also has a serious message for all of us who want to listen. The Lord does not want us to remain childish in our faith. It is an invite to become like children to enter the Kingdom but it is not to remain childish. Our faith needs to grow. Perhaps this day we can present everything in us that is immature, that needs to grow up to the Lord and ask for his blessing, his grace so that we can become more mature.
Saint Pope John Paul II referred to the principle of growth in the Christian life in his encyclical about the family. In number 34 of Familiaris Consortio he wrote that man who “has been called to live God’s wise and loving design in a responsible manner, is an historical being who day by day builds himself up through his many free decisions; and so he knows, loves and accomplishes moral good by stages of growth.”
What do we need to ensure we are growing? One is a strong connection with the Life, to have deep roots in Christ. If our roots are not deep we can be Bonsai Christians. A bonsai tree has shallow roots and so it looks cute but its fruit are tiny. A Bonsai Christian looks cute but its fruits do not serve anyone. In our world of today we need deep roots in Christ. It is not enough to give only 1 hour to be with Jesus every Sunday. As my father used to remind me, “Little Johnny went to Church every single Sunday, little Johnny went to hell for what he did on Monday!”
Once I met some teenagers who were spending the weekend organizing an activity of prayer and reflection, mixed in with songs and games for the youth to know Jesus more. One of the organizers, a little teenager of 16 years old was stressed. I was very touched to see these young people dedicating themselves to transmit the faith to other young people. They could have decided to spend their weekend relaxing, enjoying themselves and just being selfish. Instead they are thinking of others. They are young in age but very mature in their understanding of God’s will as He wants all to know him and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Sometimes we are ashamed to share about our faith. Once BBC news reported on an electronics and communications fair in USA. One of the main speakers was an actor from X rated films. He was treated like a celebrity and everyone welcomed him despite the poisonous effect these films have on society. In the church teaching Evangelii nuntiandi it says that these things happen because of the “timidity of the good” and poses an interesting question of whether we will experience salvation if through shame or fear of the opinion of others we do not share our faith? While we remain quiet, many poisonous voices in our society are shouting out! Jesus got angry and frustrated with his disciples 2000 years ago and perhaps he becomes a little frustrated with us too at times.
Faith remains alive when it is transmitted. If we have the faith it is because it has been shared to us. A good image of this is the baptism especially in the moment when the parents and godparents light their candles from the Easter candle. They are involved in transmitting the light of Christ to the new member of the Church. If the light of faith is not passed on, many remain in darkness and the fire in us soon goes out. Pass on what you know and it will grow.
Let us ask the Spirit to “open the eyes of our heart” (Ephesians 1:18) to see how we can become more mature in our following of Christ. If we don’t take steps to go forward then the world will push us backwards. Let us have the courage to ask the Lord on this feast of Santo Niño, “In what ways can I grow up?”