FORMING JESUS IN US AND IN OUR CHILDREN
Fr. DJ Garcia, CJM
The Filipino’s devotion to the Santo Niño (Holy Child) is deeply entrenched in their Catholicism and this could be traced back to the fact that the image of the Christ Child is intrinsically connected to the Christianization of their country. The original image was given as a gift by Ferdinand Magellan to Hara Amihan (Queen Juana), wife of Raja Humabon as a baptismal gift in April 14, 1521. This was barely a month after Magellan’s discovery of the Philippines in March 16, 1521. From then on, the image of the Santo Niño has found its way in every Catholic Filipino’s home and even in their commercial establishments. Moreover, various religio-cultural festivals are being celebrated in honor of the Santo Niño and these include the Sinulog of Cebu, Ati-atihan of Aklan and the Dinagyang of Iloilo. These festivals are characterized by ritualistic dancing and praying in a motley of colorful costumes and props.
The feast of the Santo Niño reminds us that the God born as an infant on Christmas Day underwent the normal biological process of growth passing through childhood to adulthood. In honoring the Santo Nino we need to go beyond the ritualistic dancing and affective veneration of the image. Today’s gospel story of the Lost and Finding of Jesus in the Temple offers us some suggestions.
Jesus was found conversing and listening to the teachers of the Law who were astounded by his wisdom and intelligence. His remarks to his mother Mary was confounding “'Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?' Jesus, even as a young child, was obedient to God’s will in his life. And this is the first challenge for us: to be open, available and obedient to God’s will in our lives. No matter what our numerical age is, we remain God’s children, and that we ought to faithfully obey his will in our lives.
For Jesus to grow in consciousness of the Father’s will in his life, it must have required an environment that fostered such and this was where Mary and Joseph played a big role. The first statements of today’s gospel tells us: “Every year his parents used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual.”
So Mary and Joseph were faithfully bringing Jesus to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover and in that event they would have to be reminded of God’s love and liberating action for them as a people. That would have imprinted in Jesus’ memory God’s love and that would have helped in his awareness of the Father’s will for him. So another challenge in honoring the Santo Niño, and this is especially addressed for parents and adults is: Are we fostering an environment for our children that would allow their faith in God to thrive and grow. How are we transmitting our Christian faith to them? Does our parenting and attitudes toward them reveal a God that is loving and nurturing? Are we transmitting to them our psychological baggages? The children’s first images of God would be largely shaped by their experiences with their parents and adults around them. What are we giving them. One of the best gifts we can give our children is to ground them in God’s love for them, which would always be independent of their accomplishments. Do we foster an environment and give them the necessary tools that would allow them to grow in what God has envisioned for them, and for them to know God’s will in their lives? We honor the Santo Niño by likewise honoring our children by giving them the proper conditions for their physical and spiritual growth.
We have had our failures in these endeavors that led to the stress and dysfunction of our children and youth. We ask the grace from the Santo Niño, to heal the brokenness we have brought to our children, and we likewise ask the grace to become better adults/parents for our children.
We all have a responsibility in helping our children grow in God’s wisdom and grace.
Viva Pit Señor!