January 16, 2022 – Feast of the Sto. Niño
Once, after Mass, I saw a child sitting alone on the Church floor worried and crying. I approached her and asked: “Oh, what happened? Why are you all alone and crying?” She replied: “Father, I thought it was your hand that I reached to get your blessing, but it was the hand of another child. I was not able then to receive your “Amen” – your blessing”. Cute as it is, I was so touch of her reply because she only aspires to get my hand for blessing but failed. So, I told her then, “Don’t worry, Inday. I am here now. You can have my hands for blessings”. After wiping her tears, she took my hands and happily pulled it to touch her forehead for blessings. And she was so happy to hold my hands to walk with me. And more so happy and proud, when I carry her up until her parents took her, at the envy of other kids.
In most churches in the Philippines, especially in Redemptorist Churches, it is unavoidable that children and young people would approach us, priest, and ask our hands for a blessing after the mass. Different types of children, (big-small, active-weak, shy-gregarious) would gather around the priest with only one desire, that is to receive “Father’s blessings”, while asking: “Bless me, Father”. And I am sure they were not (or just) forced by their parents to do so, because for children, to be blessed or to be touched in their foreheads by the priest is a great, meaningful, and wonderful experience and affirmation. One simple act or gesture of the priest can be a meaning experience and can bring joy not only to the children but also to their parents, because they are affirmed and appreciated for their child.
Even we ourselves, when we were kids, we really enjoy when somebody affirmed and gave us attention, especially by the priest.
I could still remember and never forget of the joy I experienced when the priest gave me attention and affirmation. It was my first confession. I was so small and weak then when I fearfully approached a big Irish Redemptorist priest smiling, had me sit in his lap and piously listen to my first confession. Because of that even in my childhood years, I am so happy and courageous to receive the blessing of the priest, see and talk to them because they know me and I know them. We are friends and they are human as I am. I feel like and I consider myself as KASALI, KABARKADA, KABERKS, KAPUSO, AT KAPAMILYA nila Father. One with Father and with the Church, Part of the group, friends, family and church. Even now as a priest, I would really appreciate when I am blessed and prayed over by my brother priests, by elders and by my loved ones.
Like the little children, especially for us Filipinos we also need attention, affirmation, and blessing. Because for us, to receive blessing is not only a gesture of our respect and reverence but an expression of affirmation, attention, love, and support from somebody we love and respect for all our endeavors in life so far. When our elders or leaders touch our foreheads to give us their blessings, it is an affirmation, a positive stroking for us that would mean, “I am ok. I am good and am doing fine in life”. That is why I really don’t mind and even love to bless or partake God’s blessing to people (both young and old), as a priest.
Our gospel today reminds that God has blessed us with His child Jesus. God gave us His continuing blessing by sharing us His Son Jesus into our lives. And since God’s blessing comes to us a child, like us, Jesus also needs our blessing – needs our acceptance, attention, and responsibility. Same way as Mary & Joseph parent the child Jesus into their lives, in response we also need to welcome and take care Jesus and our children and young generation in our lives today. In other words, like children, as we need God’s blessing and care, we should bless others same way as God blessed and blessing us. If you are happy to receive God’s blessings, why are you sad and slow to give and share God’s blessing to others?
Our gospel reminds us also that the child Jesus has grown in obedience and God’s favor, and did not remain a child. He has grown up and has made a stance or an option in life for the God’s kingdom and our salvation. As the child Jesus grew up, like many of us, he has asserted his independence as a person, to the extent of leaving behind his family to take up his mission of proclaiming God’s kingdom to all people. Eventually, he made a stance for life, which we all know has gained him disciples as well as enemies, and which has led to his death on the cross as well as to our redemption.
Again, we are reminded today that the child Jesus, our Sto. Nino, the Prince of Peace, became a Grown, Independent, Mature and Responsible Person who made a decision for his own life, to the extent of going against and disobeying the accepted norm of his time, in order to share and partake God’s blessings to us now and always. In response for such blessing, we in return should also bless Jesus and our children and youth of today by becoming mature faithful Christians – taking care and responsibility for their growth and mission in life. As we honor today Holy Child Jesus, the Sto. Nino & as we take responsibility for one another during these pandemic times & on our 500th year of Filipino Christianity, may we continue to accept Jesus to be part of our lives, and so involve & share Him and all God’s children to others, and thus fully enjoy continuing God’s blessings with us all the days of our lives. Amen.