Sto. Niño, Holy Childhood Day

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Sto. Niño, Holy Childhood Day

First reading: Is. 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who lived in a land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at harvest, as they exult when dividing the spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, the rod of their taskmaster, you have smashed, as on the day of Midian. For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for fire. For a child is born to us, a son is given to 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, upon David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!

Second reading: Eph. 1:3-6,15-18

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. Therefore, I, too, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and of your love for all the holy ones, do not cease giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. 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.

Gospel: Mt. 18:1-5,10

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He 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.

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.

In other words Fr. Magdaleno Fabiosa, SVD (VCR, Christ the King Missions Seminary, Quezon City)

Matthew wrote in his gospel in order to share with his Jewish-Christian community his insights regarding Jesus. His core message is that Jesus is the new Moses. Moses was considered the founder of Jewish religiosity. To him, Yahweh gave the Law at Mount Sinai. Jesus also started a new religiosity, i.e., a new understanding of being related with God. In Jesus, Yahweh gave a new law in the Sermon on the Mount; Jesus also taught a new understanding of God and the Kingdom. Matthew’s gospel is replete with instances where this newness is contrasted with the old understanding. Today’s gospel which considers being childlike as a condition to entrance into God’s Kingdom is an example of this contrast and newness. To appreciate the message of this metaphor a little backgrounder is necessary.

To be part of God’s Kingdom was every Jew’s dream. The teachings of Moses had a precise understanding of how to enter into it—obeying the Torah (the Law). Thus, in Moses’ teaching, entrance into the Kingdom of God was something to be earned and merited by knowing the Torah (the Law), and putting it into practice up to its last detail.

During the time of Jesus, children ranked very low in the social and religious scale because they could not know the Law, as yet; and not knowing the Law, they could not practice it. As a consequence, they could not claim any merit before God, much less enter into God’s Kingdom. Thus they were considered in that culture as “persons of no significance” deserving neither special attention nor special favor. In light of this, therefore, being childlike as a condition to entrance into God’s Kingdom, as Jesus taught in the gospel, was, for his Jewish audience, outright heresy.

This seeming scandal can be understood only in the light of Jesus’ teaching about God and God’s Kingdom. Through the metaphor he uses, he is challenging the contemporary understanding of merit and reward. In his teaching the Kingdom of God is not earned or merited but is offered for free. Being a child means not having anything to give or show in order to gain the Kingdom. Thus, children are the best examples of who are ready for the Kingdom. They teach us how best to approach and to related with God because they have no pretensions, nothing to show in order to be part of God’s Kingdom. What Jesus wants to bring home to us today with this metaphor is the absolute gratuitousness of the Kingdom. It is offered by God with no conditions. It is not merited and earned. It is offered for free.

Thus, we need this conversion regarding our understanding of God and his Kingdom. Like little children we need no pretensions; we can only trust in this love. So we can join St. John in saying, Yes, we believe in God’s love.

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word