“TO look into some aspects of the future, we do not need projections by supercomputers. Much of the next millennium can be seen in how we care for our children today. Tomorrow’s world may be influenced by science and technology, but more than anything; it is already taking shape in the bodies and minds of our children” (Kofi Annan, Former United Nations Secretary General).
This Sunday (January 20) our celebration of the Feast of the Sto. Niño reminds us how Jesus places deep concern over the people who serve as stumbling blocks in the integral development of those who we consider “little” in society, most especially the children placed in our midst (cf. Mk 9:38-48).
To place ourselves towards the gravity of the situation, let us ponder on the following facts based on Humanium -- an international child sponsorship NGO dedicated to stopping violations of children’s rights throughout the world.
(1) More than 1 out of every 5 newborn children exhibits dietary deficiencies from the moment of birth. Childbirth is risky both for the infant and for the mother. In fact, the number of mothers who die during childbirth remains considerably high -- especially since many young girls, through lack of both information, face unwanted pregnancies.
(2) More than 10% of Filipino children are compelled to work so as to support the needs of their family. Close to a million Filipino youths work as garbage scavengers in public dumps. The working conditions are utterly filthy and often have serious effects on the health of these individuals.
(3) 17% of births are not officially registered in the Philippines. The country has made some progress on this issue. However, not all children are able to benefit from these improvements. Indeed, most indigenous children still lack an official identity.
The numbers are growing each day. This is a big scandal but what are we doing? Sometimes we pay too much attention to all those political scandals but fail to realize that the greatest scandal of all is starring at us right in our face! Who will speak on behalf of the little ones?
An electoral exercise is always a fitting opportunity to search for that voice who would echo through the portals of government on behalf of those abandoned children together with those “little ones” in our society as well. And by using our Gospel reading as our frame of reference let us all be reminded to elect worthy men and women who would fight for the cause of the poor, the handicapped, the mentally deranged and of course the neglected children. We should never elect a candidate who would use his/her sophistication, learning, intelligence or influence to belittle the faith and self-esteem of people who are uneducated, ignorant, morally weak or easily manipulated.
The Philippine Catholic Church celebrates uniquely in its liturgical calendar the Feast of the Sto. Niño (The Feast of the child Jesus). St. Luke’s account (Lk2:41-52) is the only one among the four evangelists that presents the child Jesus appearing in a lively scene, where he acts and speaks. He (St. Luke) wants to show that Jesus’ family was conducive for his right development as man. Then further expounds that, “Jesus went down with them and came to Nazareth, and lived under their authority, and he increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man.” This means that a child’s nurtured state in his formative years is the basic foundation of what greater things he may do in his matured life.
A child (“God’s little one”) is an embodiment of simplicity, humility and innocence. He is a representation of those underprivileged and in voiceless people in our midst. He is blessed because his trust is in God and he chooses to be at Jesus’ side. No wonder, Jesus favors the doings of a child. With this, to be able to attain eternal greatness, we too as children of God should instill not only in our minds but in our hearts as well, the characteristic that make a child lovable and desirable in the eyes of our heavenly Father. As Jesus once taught, “Happy Are those who humble, they will receive what God has promised!”
“This celebration of the Santo Niño — at a time when our world seems to be treading through uncertain moments, uncertain times and the future looks bleak — is the time for us to be children once again, like Jesus. To be children unto one another and to be children together. Let us enjoy the company of our fellow children cared for by our loving Father, with Jesus to guide us. Let this feast of the Santo Niño be a renewal not only in getting to know Jesus, but getting to know ourselves and renewing our solidarity with other children and the humble ones of God” (H.E. Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle).
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