Sunday, January 17, 2010



Today we celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño, the yearly celebration that is
so dear to the hearts of all Filipino Catholics. This observance brings us back to the beginning of the Christianization of our land but also enables us to see the relevance of this devotion to our lives today.

In a special manner, it forces us to focus on our children and youth, with all the problems they pose and the hopes they raise.

Today, and especially the Eucharistic celebration we are about to start, are renewed opportunities for us to entrust our “niños” to the protection and guidance of the Holy Child. He, who is so much a part of our history and our lives, will surely take care of our children and will teach us how to do likewise.

Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it.

Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers.

When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them.

He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.


The news must have spread like fire in a forest of pine trees: there was in the Temple a wonder boy who kept amazing the teachers of the Law not only with his answers, but also with his questions.

The audience of “experts” had been increasing steadily. By the third day, it had swollen to a sizable crowd of Scripture scholars all wondering at what the boy from Nazareth was saying and the questions he was asking.

No doubt, the child knew the Scriptures in all their details and nuances. He knew more than the text said. He knew its “message,” the “substance” of it all. His words were deep insights into events and statements, presented with mastery and authority. And he was just a child of twelve, coming from a remote village in the countryside! The great teachers just did not know what to make of it.

But Jesus was not just a “wonder boy.” He was, above all, a “wonder-faithful,” and an exemplary one at that. Having gone to Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph for the Passover pilgrimage and the fulfillment of all other duties connected with that feast, He showed that he appreciated and was actively involved in keeping the religious traditions and observances of his people, just as He was at home with the Scriptures. He had been taught to value those traditions, and felt that they were part of His life.

One often wonders whether our children and our youth could not be more like him as He progressed in knowledge and maturity with the passing of the years. Jesus had grown in His appreciation of the precious traditions of his people. He knew them thoroughly, and lived them out with the enthusiasm that characterizes this age. This is what our children and pre-adolescents would need to have and which many do not have.

Most of our youths are bright. Some are exceptionally bright. They are very familiar with the names and characteristics of movie and TV personalities, sports champions, war heroes. Yet, when it comes to religious knowledge, many hardly go beyond the level of their babyhood. When it comes to our religious traditions, they show coldness and boredom. When it comes to taking some commitment in their parish or religious association, they become overcautious and unreliable.

The feast of the Sto. Niño should offer them an opportunity to reflect on why things are so. Many parents and educators, likewise, should ask themselves at what point they went wrong and how the situation can be remedied in order to see our youth “progress steadily in wisdom and grace, before God and men” (Lk 2:52), as Jesus did.