FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Feast of the Holy Child Jesus (B)
Isaiah 9:1-6 | Psalm 98: 1-5 | Ephesians 1:3-6.15-18 | Mark 10:13-16
Being a nation where children comprise 31% of the population (about 36 million of the total 117 million), Filipinos are known for their love of children. When we see children, we are happy. A child is welcoming, comforting, and non-threatening. Its power is in its weakness. Its force is its love. It comes as no surprise that we have a long-standing and widespread devotion to Holy Child Jesus after the first image of El Santo Niño Jesus was brought to Cebu and given as a baptismal gift to Rajah Humabon's wife by Fernando Magallanes 503 years ago. For Filipino Catholics, the Holy Child represents a God who is a source of great joy; a God who is accessible to all, and can be approached without fear. One can easily notice an image or icon of the Sto. Niño displayed in family altars of homes, schools, offices, community stores, and even inside jeepneys.
Andrew was a small boy living in Lian, Batangas. He would spend hours building intricate sand castles. One summer, for several days in a row, there were a bunch of teenage bullies who smashed his work. So, he tried something: he put cinder blocks, rocks, and concrete chunks at the base of the castles. The local bullies appeared, Andrew hid, and you can imagine the sounds those guys made as their bare hands and feet met their match.
God will never abandon us in the deepest darkness. Our First Reading from the Book of Isaiah is a prophecy about a future child who would bear the government on his shoulders and be called by titles that could only rightfully be attributed to God. Israel and Syria are pressuring Judah to form a coalition against Assyria. Ahaz, the king of Judah, is afraid to go against Assyria, so he sends a king's ransom to Assyria asking for their help. Isaiah spoke into a situation where Judah felt powerless, and they were afraid of the rulers to their north. As their enemies only seemed to grow in strength and tighten their grasp, they didn’t know if God was for them or against them or if He had simply abandoned them. Among Isaiah’s prophecies was about a child who embodies divine characteristics and bears the responsibility of governing His people. The power of God is so far superior to the Assyrians and all the big shots of this world that he can defeat them by coming as a mere child. As the Wonderful Counselor, he has the best ideas and strategies. Let’s follow him. As the Mighty God, he defeats his enemies easily. Let’s hide behind him. As the Everlasting Father, he loves us endlessly. Let’s enjoy him. As the Prince of Peace, he reconciles us while we are still his enemies. Let’s welcome his dominion. God’s answer to everything that has ever terrorized us is a child. Do you feel like you have so much going on that you're struggling to cope with it all, or are you going through something stressful that's making it difficult for you to function? No matter where you are today, no matter where you find yourself, call upon the name of the Child Jesus and He will never abandon you.
A little boy walked into the kitchen and told his mother that he discovered he was six feet tall. When she asked how he had determined this, he told her he had used his shoe to measure, and that he was six shoes tall. With a loving smile, she told him that his shoe was not a foot long. He insisted, "But, Mom, it's got to be because my foot's in it!"
Christ came from heaven to earth from the Father to bring us every blessing we need. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul, talks about Jesus, not anymore as a little child, but a grown up holy man. Through Jesus Christ, every favor is granted to us, serving as God's instrument for expressing love, delivering salvation, and endowing us with numerous graces. Embracing God's grace is a transformative journey that necessitates openness and a willingness to accept God's will. How do we seek God's grace in prayer? Often, we dictate our desires to God, specifying what we want, when we want it, and how we want it, as if instructing a child. We dun the Santo Niño with children's clothes and uniforms of different professions, as if telling Jesus how He should look like. People sometimes attempt to manipulate God through their prayers, assuming, "If I say enough prayers, God must comply." However, Jesus reminds us that we are not in control. As St. Teresa of Calcutta wisely noted, "Prayer is not asking; it is placing oneself in God's hands, being at His disposal, and listening to His voice in the depths of our hearts." Surrendering to God's will may be challenging, but His blessings are always readily available to sustain us.
Ivan, 9, sitting in church asked Marco, his father, "Daddy, who is a Christian?" His father, replied, "A Christian is a person who loves and obeys God. He loves his friends and neighbors, and even his enemies. He prays often, is kind, gentle, and holy, and is more interested in going to heaven than in all earthly riches. That, son, is a Christian!" Ivan looked puzzled and thought for a minute, then asked, "Have I ever seen one?"
The Gospel starts with a touching scene where people brought children to Jesus, following an ancient Israeli tradition of seeking blessings for children from a revered figure like a rabbi. The belief in the transformative power, both physical and spiritual, emanating from Jesus' touch was evident. Jesus underscored the significance of bringing children to the Son of God through both words and actions. Amid our busy lives as parents, there's a tendency to overlook the crucial task of introducing our children to Jesus Christ, a cornerstone of a Catholic Christian home. Such homes function as worshipping units, expressing dependence through saying grace, gathering for the Rosary, and attending Holy Mass together. Creating moments for shared worship, such as Sunday morning Bible stories or Saints' lives, contributes to a child's spiritual development. Failing to expose children to the church deprives them of experiencing God's presence and relying on a power beyond themselves. Neglecting this vital responsibility results in societal decline, as children, without a Christ-centered foundation, adopt secular self-images and worldviews, potentially leading them away from spiritual values. Viva, Pit Señor!
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum