One of the things that we could say about our life of faith is that it is not lacking in paradoxes. We have heard Our Lord say that unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds (cf. Jn. 12:24). We have also learned that in the Kingdom, the first shall be the last, and the last shall be the first (Mt. 20: 16). At one part in the Gospel we hear the Lord saying that he didn’t come to bring peace, but the sword (cf. Mt. 10:34), and this coming from He whom we call the Prince of Peace. Even in the spiritual tradition of the Church we continue to see paradoxes. We a re familiar with that prayer of St. Francis of Assisi which ends saying that it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Among ourselves we say that loving actually doesn’t merely mean keeping the beloved for oneself; more importantly it means letting go. Faith (and life by extension) is indeed full of paradox.
This Sunday we are before another such. It is a known and well-attested fact that the Philippines has one of the longest Christmas celebrations in the world, so long, we even beat the twelve days of Christmas. A week after the Baptism of the Lord we still have before our eyes the figure of the Christ-child. The readings of the liturgy this Sunday brings us back once again to that Christmas night in which “a child is born to us, a son is given us”, one who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father-Forever and Prince of Peace. The paradox of Christmas is brought once more before our eyes, that of an Almighty God humbling himself and making himself known to us in the frailty of the flesh, the Eternal Word being heard by His creatures through the whimpers and cries of a baby complaining of the nocturnal chill. The paradox of Power made visible in weakness. The paradox of Christmas is made present once again to us as the paradox of the Holy Child, the Sto. Nino, in this feast which is so typical and which is today celebrated all throughout the Philippine islands.
But there is another paradox that we need to see and live in our life as Christians, and might I say, as Filipino Christians, since this feast lies at the very heart of our own story as a Christian nation.
When we were small children, one wish that we might have had was that we grow up, be adults, grown up, and so to be able to enjoy all of the privileges and quirks that go with adulthood. We hated to be treated like children. We associated adulthood with sophistication, authority, independence. For us this was what it means to be grown up, mature, and adult.
This might be true psychologically and biologically. But in our lives as children of God, this is very far from what being grown up means. In today’s gospel we hear Our Lord saying that unless we change and become like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of God. No, it is not the adults and the powerful who enter the Kingdom long promised, but children, those who are totally dependent, not on their own strength or will, but upon that of the Father. Strangely, this is the dynamics of growth in the life of the Spirit: the more helpless and dependent and small we become before God, the more mature and grown-up be become as Christians. This is something I have invented by myself, but something which even the saints have realized. We see it in the Little Way of Therese of the Child Jesus, in the message of filiation of St. Josemaria, and countless other saints: the smaller we become, the greater we are. Kinda like Benjamin Button, but in a spiritual sense.
May our nation’s intense devotion to the Sto. Nino remind us of this, especially in a milieu noted for sophistication and pretense.
VIVA PIT SENYOR!!!