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Hello 2010







Spiritual childhood and maturity

January 15, 2010

PIT Senyor! Cebu now is abuzz with the celebration of the feast of the Holy Child, Senyor Santo Niňo. I find it very gratifying to note that in spite of the complications of the world today, we still can find simple and spontaneous popular piety throbbing vigorously in this little island province.

This is actually true in many places in our country, thank God, but Cebu iconizes this phenomenon beyond compare. Let’s continue to derive precious lessons from this celebration, avoiding casting pearls before swines. For precious lessons, there truly are a lot!

The image of the Santo Niňo reminds us of two seemingly contrasting qualities that we need to blend properly in each one of us and in our society. They can generally be termed as the qualities of spiritual childhood and spiritual maturity.

That’s what we can immediately see in the Santo Niňo. He is at once a child and a king, the ruled and the ruler, helpless and in control of the world, asking to be taken care of yet he actually takes care of us…

It’s the same combination that we hear St. Paul once said about Christ’s ministers: “Let us exhibit ourselves as the ministers of God…as dying, and behold we live; as chastised, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as needy, yet enriching many; as having nothing, yet possessing all things.” (2 Cor 6,9-10)

Of course, earlier we hear our Lord telling us in no unclear terms: “Be wise as serpents and simple as doves.” (Mt 10,16) Our human condition, limited compared to its supernatural goal and weakened further by sin, conflicts these qualities that are meant to be consistent in the mind of God for us.

We have to find a way to achieve this Christian fusion. Especially now when we are plunging deeper into more pluralistic cultures, usually accompanied by complications, we urgently need to develop the pertinent attitudes and skills to combine charity with truth, mercy with justice, tolerance and convictions…

Pluralism is part of God’s will for us. That’s because he gave us freedom that has to be exercised in the context of our human condition, both material and spiritual, temporal and eternal, mundane and sacred… We cannot avoid this.

In fact, pluralism has to be fostered, and not only to be put up with. Depending on how we use our freedom, pluralism is the inevitable way to either our development or our destruction.

Thus, we need to have a certain openness of mind and outlook, even to the extent of suffering the evil consequences of such openness. This is what we see in the life of Christ. He was open to all the twists and turns of our freedom, but he also managed to carry out the will of his Father.

This is the challenge we have – how to be both accommodatingly open and tolerant, on the one hand, and demandingly faithful and loyal, on the other. Truth is we often get lost along the way, ending up by being either too lax or too strict.

Obviously, this combination can only be lived in Christ, who said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.” This is something we have to remember always. Only in Christ, and Christ on the Cross, is this blend of qualities possible.

Christ precisely gave us the new commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you.” That means, all the way, up to death, a love that knows how to suffer, how to respect our freedom however it is used or misused, a love that drowns evil with an abundance of good.

It surely is not just a sentimental kind of love. It’s full of tenderness, all right, but it’s definitely a strong and mature love, full of daring and prudence, generosity and wisdom, magnanimity and determination.

It’s a love that lives out to the hilt Christ’s command even to “love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you…for if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans do this?” (Mt 5,44-46)

We have to be wary of our tendency to fall into complacency, on the one hand, and self-righteousness and bitter zeal, on the other. We have to have a universal heart to fit all. With God’s grace and our efforts, this is always possible.

This is what Senyor Santo Niňo is teaching us!