The much revered image of the Sto. Niño commemorates the holy childhood of our Lord Jesus – the hidden life during which, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Lord spent “the greater part of his life” sharing “the condition of the vast majority of human beings: a daily life spent without evident greatness, a life of manual labor.” (CCC, 531). This hidden life in Nazareth, about which the Sacred Scriptures gives very few details, embraces much of His life on earth. Whatever we know about our Lord in his public ministry took place only in the last 3 years of his life. 30 years of it was very much spent in anonymity, in hiddenness: “a daily life spent without evident greatness.” The Catechism tells us that one of the purposes of the Incarnation is for the Word of God “to be our model of holiness.” (CCC, 459.) This means that God desires that we imitate his Son so that we can become holy. Often, many people wonder how this can be possible. After all, much of what the Lord did were easily done because of his Divinity. It can be easy for us to justify our failure in imitating Christ by saying, “I am not God like Christ.” It is in His hidden life in Nazareth where the Lord is very much like us who spend our daily lives without evident greatness. The 8 million crowd who drew close to the Nazareno in the 22 hour long procession last Monday – they are the ones like us who spend their daily lives without evident greatness. The Lord spent much of his life being like most of us – without splendor, without evident greatness. It is in the mystery of his childhood that his life resembles very much like ours. And seeing him as so much like ourselves, we find it so much easier to draw close to Him. Perhaps, the similarity of the hidden life of Christ to our very ordinary selves is the reason why Reina Juana of Cebu chose the image of the Sto. Niño from the 3 images presented to her at her baptism. Perhaps, this same similarity becomes the reason for the Sto. Niño’s popularity. What Filipino home is without a Sto. Niño? We are comfortable in seeing the Almighty God as being so much like us. Here He is reachable. Here He is approachable. Here He is accessible. Looking at the Sto. Niño, we realize that the Christian life, as an imitation of Christ, is not impossibly difficult. This is so because God bent himself so low – He became like us, without evident greatness.
And he wants us to draw close to him in the ordinariness of our humanity. That is why he says, “Let the little children come to me. Do not prevent them.” Not only does he want the children to come to him. He wants us to approach Him like little children – without the evident greatness of adult achievement. Last Sunday, we said that one of the reasons why the Magi were believed to be kings is that they were received by Herod – something that can easily be done if they were kings. Today, Jesus receives children. He wants us to approach as children – without the trappings and complications demanded of adults. We can approach him even without proofs of achievements. And to make it easier, the Lord becomes a little child – a Child among children as Herod was king among the Magi who were kings.
“To such belongs the Kingdom of God” – when we look at the Sto. Niño, we see him dressed as King and rightly so. After all, He is the owner of the Kingdom of God. “God will give him the throne of David his father, and his kingdom will be without end.” But in the image of the Sto. Niño, we see this King in the utter ordinariness of a Child. This King is a Child. As a child, He is so much like us. As King, He is so much above us. As a child, He makes it easy for us to approach Him. As King, He gives us the reason why we must approach Him – He has the power to give us what nobody else can: access to the Kingdom of God.