Gap between Sto. Niño piety & conduct

Published January 17, 2021, 12:37 AM

by Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

WORD ALIVE            


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

The celebration this year, however, will not be as grandiose as the festivities of the past years. This is to avoid huge gatherings like street dancings and jampacked churches, that can cause the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

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On the feast of the Sto. Niño today, big and mini statues are dressed endearingly in various forms and attires. There’s a Sto. Niño clad as a fireman, doctor, or policeman (not with an extended hand, of course, receiving a tong!). There is also a Sto. Niño clothed in green, representing the green US dollar bills Filipinos dream of having.

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In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches: “Amen I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mark 13,15).

Like a child – what does that mean? What is it about a child that Jesus liked and valued so much?

The emphasis is on being childlike, not childish; hence, Christ-like.

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One endearing quality about the child is its innocence and simplicity. When I was in grade school, I used to play with all kinds of kids in the neighborhood. My parents would warn me not to mingle with “dirty” kids from the depressed areas. But I didn’t see any difference or mind it if they came from a poor or rich family.

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Children are honest and straightforward. “Hindi plastic.” A mother was once entertaining a priest in their house.

She bragged how she instilled on her children the love of reading the Bible. She called her five-year-old daughter. “Dear, would you get the book that we all love to read?”

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The child ran to the parents’ bedroom and forthwith came bringing a book. “Here it is, Mama,” the young girl said.

When the mother saw it, she turned red with embarrassment. It was the catalogue of fashion wear! The child handed  the book because she saw it inoocently “as the book everybody loved.”

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The other quality a child possesses is his spirit of dependence and trust. This is shown, for instance, when a toddler crossing the street puts its hand in the hand of the father and mother.

This dependence is true also with God. It requires true faith and a healthy fear.

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The absence of dependence is shown concretely when a man has no more time for God. Work and pursuit of money take His place or when he believes that he can do and get everything he wants with the power of his wealth and intelligence.

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What bears examining is that such pious acts should have a deeper internal effect on daily life, that is, they should be translated in the devotees’ deeds and moral conduct.

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Concretely, if after the grand festivities, devotees go home and continue  to be unkind, harsh, and unjust to their fellowmen or are engaged in corrupt practices and vices, their pious acts are defective, inconsistent, and merely ritualistic.

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Hence, there is a need to bridge the gap between pious devotions and day-to-day life and conduct.

Vatican  II in  the chapter “The  Church Today”  states:  “Nor are they any  less wide  of  the mark who think that religion consists  in  acts  of worship  alone.  “This split between the faith  which  many profess and their daily lives deserves  to  be counted among the more serious errors of our age.”

Let’s continue to cultivate a childlike piety and develop the virtues of innocence, humility, honesty, and filial trust in the Lord.

“Unless you become like little children,  you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

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