20 January 2008 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Philippine Feast of the Child Jesus (Sto. Nino)
In all aspects of our lives, we grow. Physical, motor, cognitive and social development are major areas of development. Parents and guardians who watch over children must see improvements in their physical and language skills. In sight, the child should make basic distinctions in vision & hearing and have some perception of pain at 1 month; visually fixates or smiles at a face at 3 months; and should respond to his own name at 10-12 months. A normal individual undergoes the stages of human development.
The same way with faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the seven sacraments touch all the natural stages and all the important moments of Christian life: they give birth and increase healing and mission to the Christian’s life of faith (1210). Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist initiates one into the faith; Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick into healing; and Marriage and Ordination give us our specific mission to the faithful.
Popular devotions like our love for the Sto. Nino help us in this growth; but should not replace the sacraments. Everyone knows that Jesus is not a child anymore; He died on the cross at age 33. Moreover, many treat the Sto. Nino like a toddler — we dress him up and offer candies the way we treat little children at 3-7 years old. The Catechism tells us that we are to help “sustain and support popular piety, but we are also tasked to ‘purify and correct religious sense which underlies these devotions so that the faithful may advance in knowledge of the mystery of Christ” (1676).
Having said this, our devotion to the Sto. Nino should be placed into perspective.
First, childbirth: our devotion should remind us of our faith that was introduced to us when Ferdinand Magellan came into the shores of Cebu on April 7, 1521 and planted the cross on its shores. He presented the image of the child Jesus as a gift to Rajah Humabon’s wife Hara Humamay on her baptism. In other words, the devotion to the Sto. Nino is a celebration of childbirth. But like all birthdays and anniversaries we ask: How does our centuries-old faith transform ourselves and our society at large?
Second, childhood: our devotion to the Sto. Nino should remind us of the virtues of simplicity and dependence on God. We can get caught up by the noise and dance of life — much like our Sinulog and Ati-atihan — and make our life complicated. Often we think that maturation means having a complicated life. However, people who are happy are those who enjoy the simple things. They would enjoy isaw, fishball and ice cream which vendors sell on sidewalks. They would enjoy quiet moments at home or the simple company of friends. At the end of the day, what matters to us can be said in a simple sentence: I love you.
I believe the devotion to the Sto Nino should be kept because it is a cultural expression of the faith. However, the devotion should also be purified and corrected. Children, like faith, should grow.