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THOUGHTS TO LIVE BY: Feast of the Sto. Niño, Holy Childhood Day

Column Titles Thoughts To Live By Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo OMI

Liturgy of the Word
Is. 9:1-6;
Ps. 97:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6;
Eph. 1:3-6, 15-18;
Mk. 10:13-16.

(MindaNews / 21 January) — Today, January 21, Holy Childhood Day, children are to pray for the missions of the world, asking for the intercession of the Patron Saints of missionaries, St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of the Child Jesus.

1. Some Notes on the Sto. Niño de Cebu:

In 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan landed in Cebu, he converted Rajah Humabon and his chief consort, Harah Humamay. Together with the Rajah of Limasawa and many of their subjects, they were baptized by Fr. Pedro Valderama, chaplain of the expedition. He gave the image of the Sto. Niño to Harah Juana (Harah’s Christian name). Magellan was killed in battle in Mactan in his attempt to aid Rajah Humabon against his enemy.

2. In 1565, another expedition, headed by the Augustinian monk, Andres Urdaneta,  arrived in Cebu. When the Cebuanos fought with them, the Spanish forces bombarded the town and razed it to the ground. Looking over the debris, a Spanish soldier discovered the image of the Sto. Niño, unscathed in a wooden box. 

3. The sacred image is now kept in the Basilica Minore de Cebu. A World War II bomb fell inside the church but the Sto Niño was again unscathed. The dark wood statue is about 12 inches tall. It depicts the Child with a serene countenance, in the attitude and dress of a Spanish monarch. He wears a golden crown, holds a globe and various scepters. It is the oldest religious image in the Philippines. Reports of miracles attributed to the Sto. Niño abound. 

4. 1st Reading, Is.9:1-6 — This prophecy took place before the Babylonian exile. Judah was feeling powerless and helpless against Assyria, Syria, and the northern kingdom of Israel. Isaiah speaks to the people of Judah and predicts its future defeat, exile, and return. He includes the vision of a child, who would represent God’s presence and rule over his people. Two chapters before, Isaiah says, “For unto us a child is born,” born of a virgin, who will name him “Immanuel,” God-with-us (see Is. 7: 14-16).

5. In the darkness of Judah, a light is shining. God is bringing abundant joy and prosperity. He is smashing the yoke that burdens the people (vv. 1-4). “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us, upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (v. 5).  This Davidic king will rule over his vast dominion justly and forever. “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this” (v. 6).

6. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus. He is the child born of the Virgin. Recounting the birth of Jesus, Matthew (1:23) quotes this verse of Isaiah. Both Is. 7 and Is. 9 describe Jesus’ birth and character, God and Prince of Peace, Ruler forever. John 1 speaks of the Word, who is God, becoming Incarnate , “and the Word was made flesh.” In Lk.1:32-33, the angel Gabriel tells the Virgin Mary that her child would be the Son of the Most High and will be given the throne of King David. He will reign forever. 

7. 2nd Reading, Eph. 1:3-6, 15-18 — Paul blesses God. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Because he has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (v. 3). He chose us to be holy “in Christ.” He destined us in love for adoption as his children “through Jesus Christ.” He has granted us his grace (vv. 4-6). Paul gives thanks to God for the deep faith of the Ephesians and for their love of the “holy ones.” He unceasingly prays that God may give them “a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in the knowledge of God (vv. 15-17). He prays that their hearts may be enlightened and may know the hope and the riches of glory, inherited by the holy ones (v. 18).

8. Gospel, Mk. 10: 13-16 — Jesus instructs his disciples, “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraces and blesses then, placing his hands on them (vv. 14-16).

9. In Jewish society, divorced women (see previous episode) were vulnerable and unprotected. Children were also powerless and weak. But children completely trust and totally obey their parents. This is the key to the kingdom of heaven — to become like a little child, totally trusting in the Lord and fully obeying his will. 

10. Prayer — Almighty God, your only Son humbled himself as a child in Nazareth and became subject to Mary and Joseph. Grant that we may learn from his example to embrace your will in all things, and serve our lowly brothers and sisters humbly and sincerely. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Pit Senyor! Viva Sr. Sto. Niño!

Prayers, best wishes, God bless!

[Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, served as President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines from 1999 to 2003 and one of the organizers of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC). He was Bishop of Kidapawan from 1983 to 1986, Archbishop of Nueva Segovia from 1986 to 1998, and Archbishop of Cotabato from 1998 until Archbishop Angelito Lampon succeeded him in 2019. Quevedo is now  Archbishop Emeritus of Cotabato.]

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