Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (24 January 2015)
I’d like to share some reflections from Pope Francis’ homily during his mass in Manila last Sunday. I was following the visit quite closely as I shared in the joy of everyone in the Philippines in welcoming him to our part of the world. I suppose that’s about as geographically close we can get to the pope for the moment. Last Sunday on 18 January, over 6 million people gathered at Luneta Park in Manila to attend the mass in celebration of the Feast of the Santo Nino. It was raining but that could not put a damper on the joy of being at a mass celebrated by the pope. I watched part of it on youtube and I marveled at the beauty of it all.
The feast of the Santo Nino (Holy Child) is a feast of the child Jesus that is unique to the Philippines. At its centre is a very ornately vested statue of the child Jesus that is Spanish in origin and is considered to be the oldest Christian image in the Philippines. While some might find the image a little odd, Pope Francis explains it’s point in his homily:
“The Santo Niño continues to proclaim to us that the light of God’s grace has shone upon a world dwelling in darkness, bringing the Good News of our freedom from slavery, and guiding us in the paths of peace, right and justice. The Santo Niño also reminds us of our call to spread the reign of Christ throughout the world.”
I love the image of the child Jesus as it reminds us about God being with us, Emmanuel. It also reminds us of the incarnation of the Lord into the world, of how God came to be among us and to experience the wold as we experience. That’s the closeness of experience that we can have with the Lord. The Pope in his homily at Tacloban reminded those whose lives were devastated by the Typhoon in 2013 that even in our suffering, God is present and continues to be so.
The presence of God is real and the image of the Santo Nino reminds us of our place as God’s children. We are God’s children and we have to embrace that as our identity. In the haste of our lives, especially in our modern era, it’s easy to succumb to the distractions of everything around us and easy to forget who we really are. Pope Francis mentions in his homily:
“We forget to remain, at heart, children of God. That is sin: [to] forget at heart that we are children of God. For children, as the Lord tells us, have their own wisdom, which is not the wisdom of the world.”
To be children of God means to be like children. Not childish ones who don’t want to grow up but to maintain a sense of the childlike innocence that all children have before they become canny and cynical as adults. Childlike qualities like trust and innocence seem key to our embracing of our identities as children of God.
Trust in the Lord comes from a dependence in God for all things. This spiritual poverty that’s described in the first beatitude is how many young children relate with their parents. A child has no choice but to depend on their parents or on adults and this makes them trust in their elders. We too need to relate with God in this way, to remember that all we have are gits from God and that we can do little on our own steam.
The other childlike quality is innocence. To see the world through the eyes of the child, with a sense of wonder at the beauty of God’s creation. We can get a little blase about what seems so ‘ordinary’ all the time and forget to try to find God in all things. We need to try to remove those blinkers and to see the world as God created it.
Living as children of God means to try to connect to God in that way. To see beyond the apparent wisdom of the world to see the wisdom of God. To remember not to be full of ourselves but to allow God to be God in our lives. To be as Jesus does, to call upon God our Father, innocent and trusting, as true children of God.
Full text of Pope Francis’ homily on 18 January can be found here.