What are the similarities between the visit of Pope Francis here in the Philippines and the Feast of Sto. Niño here also in the Philippines? As I reflected upon the two big events that happened here in my country, I was impelled by one of the lines in the gospel for the Feast of Sto. Niño, i.e. Let the children come to me. One of the touching images that I saw from the events of Pope Francis’ visit here in the Philippines is his affection to the children. His affection to the children reminds me of Christ who is compassionate and merciful to all of us His children. Being His children, we are always being assured of His embrace and blessing that is so comforting. In spite of our unworthiness and shortcomings, His embrace and blessing is enough to be childlike and to be like Him. Just as the Pope who mingled with the Filipino children; embraced them, kissed them, and blessed them, we are being reminded also that: Jesus holds us close and blesses us always like the simple gestures of affection and compassion of Pope Francis which he showed to the Filipino children. Hence, we will only recognize that God holds us close and blesses us if we will take seriously the challenge of the gospel to be childlike and Christlike.
To be childlike and Christlike is what the Feast of the Señor Sto. Niño would like to convey to us through the gospel last Sunday. The dual challenge of the feast to all of us believers is the surest way in order for us to be welcomed by Christ’s mercy and compassion. So, why the child serves as the model for our faith as presented in the gospel? Faith is not all about bragging and boasting the truth we believe in. It is not also all about self-righteousness and being upright in front of others that the truth is on our hands; rather, it’s all about depending our whole selves to the promptings of God’s will. It is also all about obeying His words and putting it into practice without counting the cost. Just like the child who depend his whole innocence and self to his parents, it’s the same gesture in our faith to God. Thus, being childlike and Christlike is not all about the name, but the identity itself which grants an assurance that once we abide in this dual challenge of the gospel, to hope in Christ is a possibility and not just a potentiality.
So, what is the similarity of Pope Francis and the Sto. Niño? The many examples of Pope Francis that he had shown to his Papal Visit here in the Philippines conveyed to us the message that truly God is merciful and compassionate like a parent who nurses their child. Meanwhile, the Sto. Niño shows to us an example on how to be ‘like his Father’ in order for us to recognize the everlasting love of God if and only if we will depend our whole self to His grace and mercy. It means to say; only a childlike and Christlike attitude will brighten the fact that we have the Father who holds us close and blesses us despite of our unworthiness and shortcomings.