“The very reason why Jesus became a child is so that he may teach us the way to become children of God.” -St. Augustine
“For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful…(Is 9:5-6).”
The Sto. Niño is, arguably, the most popular image of Jesus in the Philippines You can find him, literally, anywhere. He is almost present in every altar in all Catholic homes. He also makes his appearance in business establishments and stores. He is placed on vehicles, public and private. You can buy one in every religious store and you may find him in all kinds of attires and professional regalia. Moreover, the Sto. Niño stands as the oldest relic of Christianity in the Philippines. Yet, despite the solid Filipino devotion to the Holy Child, only a few can really say that they know what they see when they gaze upon the Sto. Niño.
The Sto. Niño is a very rich image of God and the wonderful mystery of the Incarnation. Realizing who the Sto. Niño equates to realizing how much truly God loves the world so as to give his only-begotten Son. All parents among us can only reflect on what can make them offer their child for the salvation of others. The Sto. Niño is a perpetual reminder that God truly became one of us. None of us can ever really compare to the life that Jesus lived. But all of us can claim that we have all become children. And every time we look at the Sto. Niño, we can only be filled with awe and wonder on how a child be the one who created the world, who existed before anything else and who held the future in his own little hands. Finally, we must be reminded by the Sto. Niño of a God who is ever childlike; a God who loves like a child, simple like a child, approachable like a child, and can be hugged and carried –even loved like a child; Sto. Niño –our Wonder-Counselor, our God-Hero, our Father-Forever, our Prince of Peace.
“Therefore, I too, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love for all the holy ones, do not cease in giving thanks for you…may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones (Eph 1:15-18).”
The feast of the Sto. Niño is a celebration of thanksgiving for the gift of Christianity to the Philippines –a faith that has shaped the destiny of this country and likely to play a role in the evangelization of Asia and of the world in the time to come. A concrete illustration would be the recent appointment of a Filipino in the bishopric of Salt Lake City in USA. Indeed, a child thru the image of the Sto. Niño, has conquered a country and has more conquest to do. May we truly appreciate and continue to cultivate as a country the gift that the Sto. Niño has given us.
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me (Mt 18:4-5).”
How is it that all of us ever need a lesson in humility? Because it is pride that caused the fall of Lucifer and the fall of humanity. And it may be the reason why St Augustine extolled humility as the foundation of all virtues. That’s why Jesus demanded it as requirement for the kingdom. Because without humility, it will be impossible to have a relationship with God. If we are not humble, if we will not let go, how can God become God in our lives? If pride is the norm, how can we love and be loved? But the wonder of it all is that God humbled himself in order to facilitate a relationship with us, in order to show his love –that it’s all possible despite all the selfishness in the world. And such is the Sto. Niño.