Sto. Niño, Holy Childhood Day

Sunday, January 17, 2021
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: Mk 10:13-16

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

In other words Fr. Raymun J. Festin, SVD (Rome, Italy)

This year’s celebration of the feast of Sto. Niño in the Philippines is of singular religious and historical significance. For the year 2021 marks the 500 years of Christianity in the country, five centuries after Magellan and his ragtag crew laid anchor and waded to our shores in March 1521.

From a religious standpoint, the birth of our Christian Faith coincided with the arrival of the famous image of Sto. Niño in Cebu. It may be said that it was the infant Jesus who brought and planted the seeds of Christianity in our land.

From the historical perspective, the coming of the Sto. Niño to the archipelago also heralded one of the most momentous events in history: the first (eventual) circumnavigation of the world which proved that the Earth is round, thus vindicating the theories of Aristotle, Copernicus, and Galileo.

In his chronicle of Magellan’s voyage around the globe, Antonio Pigafetta of Vicenza writes that the statue of the Sto. Niño was given as a gift to Hara Humamay, the beautiful and regal wife of Rajah Humabon. “The Captain (Magellan) on that occasion (the baptism of Hara Humamay and her retinue of damsels) approved of the gift which I had made to the queen of the image of the infant Jesus… She promised… to keep it with much care,” Pigafetta observes in his account.

Magellan and his crew abused their welcome as guests of Rajah Humabon. Their arrogance and insolence resulted in the famous battle of Mactan, during which the Portuguese captain was killed, and the Europeans suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the brave Lapu-Lapu.

The Europeans beat a hasty retreat. Pigafetta, who took part in the battle of Mactan and was wounded, wrote after Magellan’s surviving fighters fled, “Our men see from the ships that the beautiful Cross which they had hoisted on a tree was hurled to the ground and kicked to pieces by the (Cebuanos) with great fury.” That was the tragic beginning of Philippine Christianization.

In the real sense, we Filipinos do not owe our Christian Faith to Magellan and his crew.

We owe it to our mother of faith: the lovely and gentle Hara Humamay (baptized as Juana after the Spanish queen), who kept her promise to take care of the Sto. Niño, despite the treachery and impudence of the European navigators.

She was the first to believe. She was true to her promise. She kept the faith. And that was the first miracle which the Sto. Niño performed in our land.

When the Spanish missionaries returned to our shores in 1598, they found the wooden statue of the Sto. Niño not only unharmed but adorned and venerated by the Cebuanos.

And so, in this 500th year of Filipino Christianity, we express our unsparing thanks to the Sto. Niño, and our most profound devotion to Nanay Hara Humamay, for the gift of the Christian Faith.

We all outgrow our childlike innocence at some point in life. But Jesus never did. He remained gentle, meek, kind, and humble like a child until the end of His earthly life.

“Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30).

To be meek, gentle, and humble. This is what it means to be a child of God.

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word