FEAST OF THE SANTO NIÑO
Proper Feast in the Philippines
Mt. 18:1-5, 10
January 19, 2014
GOSPEL READING: The Greatest in the Kingdom
At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”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.
We live in a world that usually aims not for silver or for bronze but for gold. To win as second place or as runner up, is simply not enough. In the Hunger Games, there must only be one victor; all the other tributes do not win – they die. We hear of the number one FM station, number one TV station and so on. Self-coronation. All claim the same spot. Such competition.
Even in the ancient Mediterranean world, this kind of mentality is prevalent. The disciples, in the gospel, are pre-occupied with this: who will be greatest in the Kingdom. As if they already are assured of entering, their concern is of the next level. Surprisingly, Jesus points to the child, not to a famous figure in history, as model for greatness. He says: “…Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18: 3-4).
To properly understand what Jesus is trying to impart, we take a short time travel to the ancient world. When Jesus walked on earth, children, as well as women, sadly do not count. Remember the events when Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fishes, children, together with women, are not counted. Though seen as helpless, children are loved by parents. We, Filipinos, are naturally fond of children; we can relate much to this. Is it their unique cuteness that makes them lovable? Perhaps so. But more than that, it is their innocence, their vulnerability, their simplicity, their dependence or their trust that does the magic. In the final analysis, the child is seen as the perfect picture of true humility, which is highlighted as a must in the Kingdom.
To be saved, there is the call for conversion that we ought to answer positively – to have a change of mind and heart. In a world where independence and self-sufficiency is altogether valued highly, acknowledging once dependence could be embarrassing. But isn’t this true: everything we own is but given by God? Everything comes from God; in every way, we all depend on His providence. Once we humbly accept the truth that we are in need of His mercy, salvation is not far from us. And this should be our primary concern: to enter the Kingdom, not to aspire to be the greatest in the Kingdom. To push the issue, if need be, it is this same humility that is ultimately the criterion for authentic greatness. Furthermore, Jesus himself, in the Last Supper, showed us that the mark of true greatness is humble service. It is also written: “The first will be the last and the last will be first.” (Matthew 20:16)
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matthew 18: 5). Recently, many are affected by natural calamities; thousands of lives are lost and millions of properties destroyed. These are examples of little ones to whom we are called to serve. Still others, independent from these calamities, are waiting for some helping hands, not only eyes that pity them. Jesus identifies himself to people such as these; whatever we do to them, we do to Christ. And if such acts are charitable, those are surely to be rewarded in heaven.
Just like a child, may we learn to live humbly, possessing the attitude of trustful dependence on our Father’s provident mercy. Acknowledging that we are gifted with so much, despite our unworthiness, may we not delay in showing kindness of heart to those who, like us, are in need. Amen.
ABOUT THE SHARER:
BRO. JOHN PAUL SONTILLANO, OP is a Dominican Student-Brother.
Feast, Cycle A, OP Friars, Sto. Niño, Simplicity, Vulnerability, Innocence, Greatness