Reaching for God in the Sto. Niño

[Reflection for the Celebration of the Sto. Niño at St. John’s Institute (Huaming) in Bacolod, Jan 19, 2018.]

Santo Niño de Cebu

It is not easy to talk to Majesties of Fire and Fury.
They shock and terrify.  They hurt and harm.  They thrive on obedience coerced in fear.
Perhaps one of the most harmful of divine images is that of a God of Power and Punishment, an angry God taking vengeance on the vexatious, sending sinners to hell.
In our shame and brokenness, it is not easy to warm up to such a God.
One is always cowed, one’s head always bowed.
This is not the God of my faith.

My prayer is that of the humble publican beating his breast at the back of the temple:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner.”  And of God lifting me up.

Much easier to warm up to the black Nazarene,
victim of the chief priests, victim of established power and misjudgment,
carrying the heavy Cross to take away the burden of our sins.
Much easier in touching this divine Man of suffering
to be touched by God’s mystery even in our own sufferings.

Much easier yet in yearning for the God of life,
the source of our consolation and joy,
to talk to Emmanuel, the God who is with us, as a Child.
Much easier in coping with the challenges of my life
And the complicated problems of my day
to converse intimately with the Holy Child, the Sto. Niño.
He always listens.  He is but a child.  He never sends me away.
He caresses my face.

In the Philippines the celebration of the Sto. Niño
recalls the Gift of our Faith that came from the conqueror.
The Sto. Niño was the gift of Magellan to us baptized in the Faith.

But in baptism, the Sto. Niño is really the Gift of the Father,
the Sto. Niño is his Word of Love to us
who grew among us in wisdom, age and grace.

The Sto. Niño is the smiling Child to whom Mary leads us
in our loneliness and sadness, confusion and sin.

The Sto. Niño is the Child from deep within us
that expresses our most profound need in crying, “Abba, Father!”

As Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,”
on this happy day in Huaming, we all pray,
“Let the Holy Child, the Sto. Niño, come to me!”
It is in your Word-made-flesh-in-a-Child, Father,
that all is sanctified, all is consecrated, all is holy.
Thank you for our Filipino-Chinese heritage
that you in your incarnation cherish as yours.
The world rejected that Word, Father, but we do not.
On this celebration of the Sto. Niño, thank you, Father, for our baptism.
Thank you for our school.  Thank you for our church.
Thank you for our Catholic Christian community.
Keep us all together, Father, in your love.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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