19 January 2013


Feast of the Sto. Niño
Lk 2:41-52 (Is 9:1-6 / Ps 98 / Eph 1:3-6, 15-18)
Please pardon me, that I am somewhat amused while reading the Gospel today.  There is something in it that I find quite funny: Jesus seems to be rather naughty!  Just like any playful kid, He appears to be innocently naughty.  The Gospel sets the record straight: Mary and Joseph did not lose Him after all.  It clearly says that when His parents finished fulfilling what the Law required, they travelled back home, but “the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem” without the knowledge of Mary and Joseph.  So, Jesus wanted to stay behind, but, can anybody tell me why in the world did He not ask His parents’ permission to hang about for a few more days?  Or, at least, inform His parents that He wanted to stay behind?  Or, perhaps, requested His parents that they linger with Him in Jerusalem for some more days?  Jesus did none of those!  Rather, on His own volition, and probably even pre-meditated, He just stayed behind.  Hmmm…naughty kid!

I was once a kid, too, and pretty naughty.  More naughty than Jesus today.  I remember very vividly when on a New Year’s Day, many years ago, I went with my dad and sisters to one of our lolas’ house not only for the New Year’s celebration but for her birthday, as well, that falls on the same day.  After a few hours, I began to feel bored and insisted that we go home already.  On the contrary, my dad was really having a great time with my uncles and cousins over some bottles of beer; so he ordered me instead to go and play with the other kids.  I would have none of it.  But unlike Jesus, I did not stay behind.  I left them behind!  With great intent, neither asking permission nor informing my dad, for I knew he would not agree, I went home all by myself.  I walked away, took a jeepney ride, crossed several streets, rode a tricycle, and, voila, I was home!  My mom, who decided not to go with us to our lola’s place, was shocked to realize that her seven year old kid commuted alone.  I knew that my dad would be out of his wits searching for me but I didn’t care, for all I wanted was to go home.  So, mom telephoned my lola’s place to inform by exasperated dad that I was already home and was safe.  In less than an hour, dad came home, rushing and furious.  And unlike Joseph in the Gospel today, dad gave it to me really hard.

Naughty Jesus – sounds irreverent?  No.  Any normal kid can be naughty sometimes.  Besides, naughtiness is not sinfulness.  Doing something naughty is not necessarily committing sin.  Being naughty is being normal.  And Jesus grew up like any normal kid.  To claim the contrary is to deny His true humanity.  Heb 4:15 testifies that Jesus was like us in all things but sin.

I really think that Jesus was being naughty when He stayed behind in Jerusalem without telling His parents, but I believe even more that Jesus did not mean to make His parents suffer.  I am firmly convinced that Jesus never wanted to cause His parents any sorrow.  He appears quite naughty in the Gospel today without Him really intending to be naughty.  All He wanted, as He Himself said in the Gospel today, was to be in His Father's house.  In a much later episode, in Jn 2:17, having cleansed the Temple by whips and shouts, His disciples would actually see in Jesus the words of Ps 69:9 coming alive: "Zeal for Your house consumes Me."  Moreover, His food, as He Himself likewise said in Jn 4:34,  was to do the will of Him Who sent Him and to finish the work He had been sent to do.  He was passionate with God.  Very passionate that He sometimes even appeared naughty.  And we know His story already, as He grew up, Jesus would many times get into trouble with the elders of the people, the scribes, the Pharisees, and the chief priests until those whose authority He challenged had Him nailed on a cross.  But in all these, He got into trouble not because He committed anything bad but because He would remain more than in Jerusalem but in God most of all.  Jesus was faithful and obedient to God.

Many times we ourselves get into trouble.  But are they all because of God, because for God, and because we would rather take God’s side rather than be safe in alliance with God’s enemies?  We can all be naughty anytime, but when was the last time we were naughty for God?

As I continue reflecting on the Gospel today, I also begin to wonder if Jesus really understood what He was doing or was it simply an urge deep inside Him that pushed Him into what He did as a twelve year old kid.  This is not to doubt His divinity even as it affirms His human nature.  It is rather an attempt to challenge the stampita-type image most people usually have of Jesus as a child and as an adult alike.  I am more inclined to believe that the awareness that He was God’s Son came gradually to Jesus.  His understanding and acceptance of His true and complete identity, I am compelled to believe, grew in His consciousness as He grew, the Gospel says, “in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”  To claim otherwise is to deny that He is truly man and is, therefore, fooling us all when He acted like one.  But, no, Jesus, as we profess over and over again, is true God and true man.  In His one person, both natures exist in their wholeness.  Such is the ineffable mystery of Jesus!

I remember, when I was twelve years old, young though I was, I was already very passionate with my desire to become a priest.  I told my dad about it.  He didn’t agree.  He would not let me enter the seminary and study for the priesthood.  “You are my only son,” dad reasoned out.  “With your becoming a priest, my lineage will die.”  I told him, “Dad, your last name doesn’t sound nice.  Sometimes, I become the butt of jokes because of it.  So, Dad, how about letting your lineage just die with me?”  I told you, I was a naughty kid!  I was a good kid, but pretty naughty.  Dad got angry with me (again) and sent me to bed.  But before I went to bed, I managed to warn him: “Dad, it’s the seminary or no high school for me!”  There I was, as if I really knew what I was saying.  But I meant it.  Really.  More importantly, I really wanted to be a priest as young as twelve years old.  The truth is that I already wanted to be a priest as far back as I can remember my childhood days.  However, God made me understand what I wanted rather gradually as I advance in age and wisdom.  Even now, I am already seventeen years a priest but God is still showing me what those words of mine when I was twelve years old really mean.

Jesus grew up and so did I.  We all grow up and, like Jesus, need to leave behind our childish ways.  The challenge that Jesus issues to us always is to be childlike without being childish.  Indeed, responding to that challenge forms an integral part of our being His disciples.

Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Sto. Niño, let us, in a very special way, pray in this Mass that, like Jesus, we may grow not only in age but also in wisdom and favor before God and man.  May we never be just naughty, but if we are ever naughty, may we be naughty because of our passion for God.  May our passion to obey God grow in us and fidelity to His will consume us as it did Jesus.

The image of today’s feast – Nuestro Señor Sto. Niño – is a child.  Yes, probably, He was a naughty kid sometimes.  But let us not forget that He grew up and became a man.  Unless our devotion makes us grow, ours is nothing but fanaticism.  And all the dancing and pomp and pageantry in today’s feast may be nothing more than the naughty child in us playing again.


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