The following homily was delivered by Fr. Irmo Valeza, SJ last 15 January 2016 during the Grade School Mass in honor of the Sto. Niño.
No one expects a child to be wise. When you are just a kid, almost everyone thinks you are a kind of naïve (know very little) and childish (often think of yourself first and ignore what others say or feel). But can you as a child become wise? And it is not about just being smart or intelligent in the classroom.
The Feast of Sto. Niño that we anticipate and celebrate today tells us ‘yes’ a child like you can become wise! Our Christian faith tells us so. We believe God has become human like each of us (Christmas is all about such mystery!). And wait, there is more! Before God became man, he was a child first and experienced the world as a child. And a wise kind of child! How?
Let us then reflect on the readings today and I will propose three points about the child Jesus.
The prophet Isaiah describes this child in the first reading as a bright light that shines upon everyone who lives in the land of darkest shadows. This mere child will become our ruler and is named Wonderful Advisor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Then, in the Gospel reading St. Luke tells us very briefly how this great child Jesus behaves, lives, and grows up from 12 years of age and onward. In the story, Mary and Joseph, searching for Jesus for 3 days, find him listening and conversing with the temple teachers. This is the first point therefore: He listens well and converses. He does not whine, demand, or care less about what others say. He listens well.
And when Mary his mother tells him how worried she and Joseph were about him, he explains that he put the Father in heaven above all and thus has stayed in the temple. Yet they do not understand him. Now, this is the second point. When he is not understood, he does not argue but seek to understand his parents rather than to be always understood by them. For that Jesus learns very well. And, finally, he goes back with them to Nazareth and obeys them. This leads me to the third point. By obeying, he has made Joseph and Mary feel truly important in his life.
He listens well. He learns well by seeking to understand first rather than to be always understood. And he makes others feel genuinely important. Three ways how “he became wise, grew strong and pleasing to God and to people” (as St. Luke recounts to us). Three ways of becoming a truly wise human child.
Let me tell you then a story. One time I met in PGH two kids, Karl and Michael, about 9-10 years old, who were friends with each other. They stayed in one room and both had terminal cancer. The disease already spread all over their body. Both were basically good kids but dying. Yet Karl, I should say, was different from Michael. Karl, though blind already, was quiet and only wished to say goodbye to his siblings. Michael, however, complained a lot, was demanding, cared less what his mother was feeling about him and his condition. When I asked Karl if he wanted to be with Jesus already, he raised up his thumb to say he was ready. But when I approached Michael, he refused to talk to anyone. Karl had been thanking his mother and father at the last moment of his life. But Michael insisted to his mother that he wanted to go home to the province as soon as possible because he hated the hospital. His insistence made his mother worry a lot. Now, between Karl and Michael at the final hour of their life, who do you think was more like Jesus the child who “became wise, grew strong and pleasing to God and to people”? Karl it seems (without putting down any of them who were both sick).
When God became the child Jesus, he has shown to us (to you especially) the way to salvation through the person of a human child. His way, I repeat, is this: First, to listen well. Not to whine, demand a lot, and be insensitive of/about others. Second, to learn well by seeking to understand first rather than to argue and to seek to be always understood by others. And third, to always make our parents and other people feel appreciated and loved especially by our respect and obedience.
This is the way God sees, acts, behaves as a child in Jesus. So we can say that Jesus the Sto Niño is the wisdom of God, a bright light that shines upon us living in the land of the darkest shadows.
Would you then like to be a wise child? Be like Jesus.
Lord Jesus, grant us your wisdom so that we can behave, live, and grow up like you are and like you have done. Amen.