Feast of the Santo Nino (A)
January 19, 2014


It’s simply more fun in the Philippines in many ways. If one leaves aside the one-too-many tragedies that happen one after another, you can’t argue against the fact that we do know not only how to party, but also how to extend something beautiful much longer than the rest of the world. For one, our Christmas is the longest in the world. Broken apart only by the Feast of the Black Nazarene, most of us go out once again to party on just the week after, to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Child, the Santo Nino.

It is not fun, though, to be caught up in a frenzy of misguided fanaticism … when even the center, summit and most important activity of all – the Holy Mass – is cut short by fanaticism gone wild and raucous as to stop the Mass midstream.

It is not fun, too, when non-thinking crowds lose all good sense and trample on everything underfoot solely because those things had the unfortunate lot of being caught in the path of a stampede of a procession, leaving tons of trash and untold destruction behind.

But I am digressing …

Today is a day of honest-to-goodness, clean and wholesome spiritual fun. Why so? It is good news that echoes the joys of Christmas: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light … For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.”

I am sure you have experienced how fun it is to be playing with echoes. Enter a cavernous empty Church, say something aloud, and hear the echo reverberate. I am sure you would do it over and over again. In my younger climbing days, we used to do it on the peaks of certain mountains. It feels good to hear the sound of your own voice reverberating in the great void in between mountain walls.

But is the Feast of the Santo Nino merely echoes of bygone days? Is today’s feast a mere refrain in the musical piece of life that gets replayed once each year and not much more beyond, and not much else besides? Is the Feast of the Santo Nino simply a fun way to be Filipinos, replete with dancing, shouting, making a wild ruckus with drums and bugle and brass instruments? Partying is something we Filipinos are now learning to be best at! Why, even election days are occasions to party and frolic! And we are not satisfied with just 12 days of Christmas. We have got much more … and a day of extension to boot … today!

As a priest and preacher, teacher, pastor and minister, I would like to think the Lord is not happy with us just having fun of the partying kind. I would like to think all that fanaticism that is both destructive and disruptive, is not the way to go for all that fun to go up to the level of deep, sincere, real, good, clean, and honest spiritual fun.

And the Santo Nino himself shows us the way – the path of simplicity, seeming weakness and powerlessness … the path of humility, the ways of fun that is not just coming from utter abandon and wanton disregard for what is right, honorable, respectable, and worthy of honor and praise.

The Santo Nino is popular precisely because the little child does not call on everyone to simply wax sentimental and be shallow in one’s emotional attachment to a helpless child. No … the Santo Nino calls on everyone to grow exactly like him, in age and in wisdom …

The way the Santo Nino is celebrated in Cebu and many other places is not reducible to shallow fun and frolic. It begins and ends with prayer for a full nine days before, and capped with a well-attended procession. Fanaticism gives way to devotion; and prayer leads the way towards a joyful dignified celebration. As it is meant to be … as the Lord Himself would have us do.

The disciples’ question in today’s gospel has to do with greatness. “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?”

He answered the curious question … with a live teaching aid, no less … He called a child over and says: “unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

By all means, let us all be childlike, not childish and churlish. Let us find joy and rejoice at the great gift of this child who grew in age and in wisdom in the sight of God and men.

It is more fun for those who understand that real joy, the godly type of unalloyed joy, is a whole lot more than just having worldly and shallow fun. And all that fun is not just echoes of Christmas rejoicing, but repercussions of mature Christian action. We need, like Christ did, to grow in age and in wisdom.  And real, honest-to-goodness fun lies on being like a child, “whose angels in heaven always look upon the face of the heavenly Father.”