First of all, be a child of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Feast of Sto. Niño, 19 January 2020

Isaiah 9:1-6 ><)))*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><)))*> Matthew 18:1-5, 10

The Cross and the Bell of our parish church. Photo by Gelo N. Carpio, 12 January 2020.

Looming high always at the center of our Christian faith is the Cross of Jesus Christ. Whether inside or outside any church, there is always the Cross reminding us of our salvation in Jesus and of the path we have to follow as his disciples.

But, so often we forget that the first call of the Cross is for us to be a child of God above all in order to follow his Son our Lord in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Here we find the full meaning of our celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday, of how in our Baptism we have become the children of God in Jesus Christ who became like us so that we may become like him, blessed and divine as the eternal Son of the Father.

Such is the plan of God in the very beginning of his Creation.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

It is only in our becoming first the sons and daughters of the Father in Jesus Christ that St. Paul declares how we are saved in this part of the second reading skipped by the liturgy today:

In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.

Ephesians 1:7-8
A painting of Sto. Niño devotees by Bulakenyo artist Aris Bagtas, 2018.

Work of Christmas continues

We are already into the second week of Ordinary Time in our liturgy but, we in the Philippines are still celebrating an “extension” of the Christmas Season this third Sunday of January for the Feast of the Sto. Niño, the Holy Child Jesus.

And, for a very good reason! to remind us the story of Christmas continues even after the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism or when all decors have been kept.

The work of Christmas, of sharing Jesus Christ in our loving service with others continues the whole year through. In fact, it is during the 34 weeks of Ordinary Time where we are most challenged to continue Christ’s work he started at Christmas when he became a child among us.

And there lies the very core of his teachings, of his message to us: our being like a child!

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 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.”

Matthew 18:1-5

Jesus remained the Child of God until the end

If we examine everything in the Gospel, from the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus, his hidden and public lives, his miracles and preaching, into his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, everything is anchored in Christ’s being like a child, the eternal Son of God.

When he was lost and found in the temple at the age of 12, right away he told his Mother his being the Son of God: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2:49)

Painting by Aris Bagtas, 2018.

At Last Supper, Jesus explained his being the Child of the Father: “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works” (Jn.14:10).

His being one with the Father is due to his being the Eternal Son that reached its highest point of expression at the crucifixion where Jesus repeatedly called God his “Father”.

Here we find as in our gospel today the essential requirement of first becoming a child of God to make it into the kingdom of heaven. It is impossible to follow Jesus to his Cross when we remain adults who know everything!

This is the problem with the Traslacion that has become rowdy, even crazy over the years which is completely the opposite of the Pit Señor de Sto. Niño in Cebu that remains solemn and orderly despite its vast crowd of devotees.

See how in Quiapo the devotees “fight” and insist on their own ways of doing the procession, of how things are now turned upside down with the hijos lording over (pun intended) everything every January 9 with the gall to call Christ “Padre Nuestro Jesus de Nazareno”?

Everybody wants to fulfill one’s panata of jumping into the revered image of the Nazareno, in total disregard of others.

Where is the spirit of being a child, of being generous and kind with others?

What we have been seeing these past years in the Traslacion is more of machismo, of who is the greatest to be able to reach the Nazareno. And included among them are the growing members of media suddenly becoming devotees with the panata to anchor Traslacion!

Being a child is a call to daily conversion in Christ Jesus

Becoming like a child a daily call to conversion to Jesus, a going back to the story of Christmas, of being humble and small. I like that word used by Jesus today – turn – when he declared, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children…”

To be able to carry our cross and follow Jesus, we have to turn first, that is, be transformed from world-wise, self-sufficient, all-knowing adults of the world into abiding children of the Father of Jesus Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Children always have that glow within them that can disarm us of our insecurities and fears. Below is a painting by the Danish-German Modern Artist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) portrayed children with Christ in bright colors while the adults were all dark and gloomy.

“Christ Among Children” (1910) by Emil Nolde.

Being like a child is letting go of our fears and insecurities to entrust ourselves to God’s care and providence. And to others dependability and reliability too!

Maybe that is why as we get older, we mellow: we realize after all that we remain children of God and of somebody else in the end. There is always somebody out there who would look after us especially when we are already old and weak. There is always somebody whose heart would always be moved to come to our rescue or simply to warm our hearts or make us smile.

If each of us can become like a child daily, simply loving and trusting others, then we can bring light into this world deeply plunged in the darkness of sin and pride, of rat race without any winner, or arms race without any war at all.

If we can become like the child, we can become like Jesus Christ, the great light in the land of gloom bringing joy and great rejoicing (Is.9:1-2) with his life of love flowing from the great sacrifice at the Cross. Amen.

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