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Be childlike not childish

By Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

Today is the feast of the Sto. Niño in the Philippines. The feast is immensely popular among Filipinos. Rich and poor, young and old alike maintain a strong, if not fanatical, devotion to the Holy Child. Fiestas and processions are held in his honor.

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Statues and images have various forms and attires. There’s a Sto. Niño dressed as a fireman or a policeman (obviously not with a hand extended asking for a tong!)? There is even a Sto. Niño all clothed in green, representing the green buck (US dollars) Filipinos hope to have.

While such devotion is helpful for piety – and even the tourism industry! – let it not remain only on the ritual and external level. Just as the Child Jesus grew up and mature, so should our faith. Jesus wants us to be childlike not childish.

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We read in this Sunday’s gospel the Lord saying: “Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” (Mark 13,15). Meaning, the Lord is more interested in our childlike traits rather than our rituals and external piety.

“Like a child.” What does that mean? What characteristics does a child have that Jesus liked and valued so much?

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The Lord did not name those qualities but we can discern them from the child’s natural conduct and traits.

The first human quality which makes him the symbol of a citizen of the Kingdom is his candid HONESTY. He’s not “plastic.”

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In a birthday party where there were many guests, the mother asked her little girl celebrant to say a prayer before the meal. “I don’t know what to say,” she said. “Come on. Just say what your Mama would pray.” “Alright,” the child said. “Dear God, why did I invite so many people to feed tonight!” That’s what she heard from her mother and candidly recited it.

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A second characteristic of a child is his HUMILITY. “Whoever humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven,”

A child does not wish to push himself to the limelight, but would rather fade in the background.

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A third characteristic of a child is his trust and DEPENDENCE. He is perfectly contented of his utter dependency on those who love and care for him. The absence of dependence is shown when a man has no more time for God in prayer.

Also, when he believes that he can do everything all by himself without recognizing God’s role in his life.

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One final thought. Jesus points out: “Unless you change and become like children.”

The feast of Sto. Niño challenges us to possess the child’s qualities if we are wanting in them. And the trade-off? No less than the kingdom of God.

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LAFF ONE ANOTHER. Once a couple was preparing to go to Mass. The phone rang and the husband picked it up. Apparently it was a wrong number. “Stupid, don’t bother me with your wrong numbers,” he growled. “We’re in a hurry to go to church!”

Lesson: The harsh reaction did not jibe with man’s going to church and Christian kindness.