Feast of the Holy Child (Santo Nino)
January 20, 2013

Readings: Is 9:1-6 / Eph 1:3-6.15-18 / Luke 2:41-52


It’s more fun in the Philippines! That, at least, is what our tourism people would like the world to believe. Why not? Where else do you find Christmas beginning in earnest in September and ending some time in mid January, with a little of Passion week sandwiched in between with the feast of the Black Nazarene?

But I am being flippant here. It’s not just about fun. It’s all about being “blest with every spiritual gift!” And I am dead serious about it!

Family psychologists in the Philippines have always been puzzled by this. Most mothers and fathers of fledgling families in the country are working and living elsewhere, far from their young, growing children, far from home that is more than just home, far from all that they grew familiar with. Darkness, you might say? Indeed! The darkness and the growing social costs of migrant workers, who look elsewhere for gainful employment, is an undeniable fact.

But know what? The Filipino family, known to be resilient, has, over the recent decades, remained as healthy as ever, relatively speaking. Where in other cultures, there would have been untold miseries brought about by such long-distance nurturing, in the Philippines, the Filipino family has relatively remained unscathed and unhurt by the so many situations of gloom that are seen elsewhere around the world.

It’s more blessed in the Philippines!

Our Christmas is the longest in the world. We even take a pause just after New Year to take a peek at what is coming yet two months hence – Passiontide! We take a breather just as we got tired of the trimmings and trappings of Christmas, and celebrate the Feast of the suffering servant, the Black Nazarene of Quiapo, Manila, and more than 8 million people, mostly men and young people, sacrifice what little comfort they might have, and brave through endless hours of procession snaking or more properly snailing its way towards its home, the Church of St. John the Baptist in Quiapo.

But there are lowering black clouds in the immediate horizon … darkness looming over the pearl of the orient seas no more. Darkness of corruption … black clouds of summary executions, rub-outs of elements they call criminal, perpetrated by law and order personnel, for whom law seems only to be siding with the one who belongs to the ruling dispensation … the list is long … including typhoons that seem to rise out of nowhere when the whole country is agog preparing for the joys of Christmas.

I can go on and on … But today, with one final push to remind us of the joys and hopes of Christmas, the readings tell us otherwise … They weave an ongoing story of hope and optimism: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”

We simply seem unable to get enough of all this joy and optimism. They ooze out of every event associated with the “little boy child” – from well-attended and well-celebrated novena Masses to processions and competitions full as much of spirituality as pageantry! Behind it all is one simple, clear and undeniable conviction: “The Lord has made his salvation known!” “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”

Grateful and joyful, we thus proclaim today: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens!”

But this joy ought not remain in meaningless and empty revelry, one devoid of meaning and significance for the rest of our mortal existence, down the road of life, in this valley of tears.

Let the same little boy child teach us this important lesson. His was not exactly a plaster-like idyllic existence in a world that made no demands, in a situation that brought only pious and nice feelings, in a life that was perfect and seamless.

No … there, too, were black lowering clouds of anxiety, tension, doubt and personal suffering. The boy at some point went missing. Mary and Joseph, we are told, looked for him “with great anxiety.” And at the moment of meeting, there came that heart-breaking answer to a question that every mother and father had the right to ask: “Son, why did you do this to us?”

The answer came like a heavy blow to already overburdened hearts: “Don’t you see I must be about my Father’s business?”

And this, my friend, is the good news hiding behind all this joy, optimism and revelry. Pit Senor … Call on the Lord would then mean something else other than just dancing with abandon in the streets. It means taking a grip of oneself and acting like the Son or daughter of the Father in heaven that we all are meant to be – obedient, loyal, faithful, and true!

Make no mistake about it! This feast is not just a feast of the heart. Neither is it just a feast for the mind. It is all this, and more. It is a feast of the hands and feet, too. Dance with abandon, yes! Process with devotion, too! But get up and do something. Stand up for God, your Father! Life is not just about praying and worshipping, dancing and flailing your arms in the air! It’s all about being about doing the Father’s will, and living humbly and rightly for God’s sake and in His name! Pit Senor! Call on the Lord’s name! Thank Him and praise Him, for we all are blest with every spiritual gift!