martes, 21 de enero de 2014

Feast of the Sto. Niño

January 19, 2014
Mt 18:1-5, 10

The Greatest!

The disciples came to Jesus and asked him: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus answered: “…unless you change and become like little children…” (Mt 18: 1-3). Let me highlight the words greatest and children (or child). What could be the reaction of the disciples regarding Jesus’ reply? Maybe they were surprised. Little children, why them? What if Jesus told them that the greatest is Mary Magdalene? A woman, why a woman? Or what if he said Lazarus? Lazarus, why a poor man?

Let me reiterate Jesus’ reply: “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven are those who become like little children.” What do these little children have? What is the meaning of little children? What would be the first thing that comes into our mind when we hear the word childhood or children as 21st century people? Maybe we could associate children or childhood with sweetness, tenderness, innocence, purity, dependent, obedient, etc. us go back to the first century Palestine, the time of Jesus. During that era the mortality rate of children or infant was very high. The meaning of childhood was a stage of being powerless, dependent, no autonomy, and danger. That is, if a child actually survives.

Here, Matthew makes clear what he means by the expression “to become little children.” It means to be humble and to give up self-importance; to be dependent and to trust God. In other words, Jesus is inviting them to live differently. He invites them to let go of the prestige and power.

Jesus showed the disciples how to be child-like. For example, when Peter asked him, “How many times should I forgive a brother when he sins against me?”(Mt 18:21). Jesus said, “Not seven but seventy-seven times.” (Mt 18:22). It means never keeping grudges but continuing to forgive just like little children. Sometimes, little children would fight and stop playing with one another. But a few minutes after, we can see them playing again as if nothing has happened to mar their interaction.

Jesus is the best example of becoming like a child. He never lost his childlike-attitude, that is, he always trusts his Abba. He never used his power and position for self-advancement. As St. Paul reminds us that Jesus did not deem equality with God rather he emptied himself. He lived a different life while he was on earth. He became a counter-cultural and counter-society.

Today we are celebrating the feast of Sto. Niño. It serves as a reminder for us that Jesus never lost his childlike-attitudes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. He is faithful and will remain faithful until the end of time. This feast also serves as an invitation to look at ourselves in terms of our relationship with God and with our neighbor. Are we childlike or childish?

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