LECTIO DIVINA: Feast of Sto. Niño
A. Invoking the Holy Spirit.
We invoke the Holy Spirit using the words of St. Augustine.
Come, Holy Spirit, by whom every devout soul, who believes in Christ is sanctified to become a citizen of the City of God! (en. Ps 45:8) Come, Holy Spirit, grant that we receive the motions of God, put in us your flame, enlighten us and raise us up to God. (s. 128, 40) Amen.
With heart well disposed, with serenity, read slowly the following words, savoring them and allowing yourself to be touched by them.
And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me, do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God as a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hand on them.
Let us now meditate on these words of the Gospel according to St. Mark.
A Jewish child was not considered mature until he reaches twelve years of age when he was given permission to read and study the Law or Torah. Before that age the child did not possess knowledge of the Law which rabbinic teaching held indispensable for salvation. It was a Jewish custom that on the Sabbath parents bless their children. On the Day of Atonement, even children were made to fast and the Scribes would bless them. But since they had no knowledge of the Law, they were an image of immaturity and childishness; they were incapable of accepting the teaching of Jesus nor could they become his disciples. Thus, it would be a waste of time for Jesus to give them attention, so the disciples thought and they prevented them to approach Jesus.
In our days, parents prevent children from knowing Jesus by their neglect to spend quality time of love with their children, to show them a balance of love and discipline, of respect and responsibility. In many cases children are uncared for, abused and maltreated, sold or given away. Some time ago, the newspaper reported of thirteen children imprisoned by their own parents, three were chained to their beds, all of them filthy and under nourished. I was greatly horrified when I learnt that abortion clinics would sell the aborted babies to satanic cults for human sacrifice. The more babies aborted the more human sacrifices offered to the devil.
The family is where children are to be nourished and nurtured physically, emotionally and spiritually. The less trauma and the more affirmation and love a child experiences, the greater are the chances that he/she will grow to be a better person. It is in the family that a child is to learn obedience and respect, care and devotion, faithfulness and commitment, truthfulness and honesty and all the virtues of a good child of God. There is no substitute to a loving family in which children can grow to maturity. Even Jesus submitted himself to this law of human life choosing to be born to a couple, and of the working class at that.
Jesus says, “The Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these,” and “whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” A child is truthful, innocent and without malice. But more than these, a child and disciple of Jesus must acknowledge his littleness, insignificance and powerlessness before God. I must recognize that I am weak and little in the presence of God and accept it. While the Pharisees exhibited the pride of righteousness, affirming that the Kingdom was achievable by external observance of the Law, the child/disciple of Jesus must first of all be HUMBLE and the child is the objective standard of humility required of a disciple. A child is totally dependent on his/her parents for all his/her needs, look to them for protection and security, help and support in all undertakings. Salvation, achieving the Kingdom, is not by my efforts or talents or resources, but by the loving mercy of our Heavenly Father. He is in control and all that I am and have comes from Him. This is the true thinking and attitude of a true child of God. St. Leo the Great in his sermon on the Holy Child, added some virtues we should acquire: “the fast appeasement from irritation and speedy return to calm, the total oblivion of offenses, the absence of craving for honors, the love of companion- ship, a sense of natural equality, (wherein we accept everyone: white or black, rich or poor, educated or illiterate), not to know how to harm others and not to enjoy evil.” Señor Sto. Niño, have mercy on us and mold us into your image and likeness. Amen.
Let us now pray from the depths of our heart. I suggest the following phrases and questions that can awaken in you dialogue with God, and at the same time give rise to affections and sentiments in your dialogue with God. Do not move to the next phrase or question if you can still continue dialoguing with God in one of them. It is not a matter of exhausting the list, but of helping you to pray with some points that better fit your personal experience.
a. “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mk. 10:14).
- Have I brought children close to Jesus? Or by scandal I have prevented them?
- What childlike character must I have to better belong to the Kingdom?
b. “Whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it” (Mk. 10:15).
- Do I have the humility to accept the Kingdom?
- Am I a “beggar of God” who readily accepts the kingdom offered to me?
I propose to you some points for affective interior contemplation. Once again you need not follow all of it, rather you can choose what fits your personal experience.
a. Contemplate yourself as a child with other children surrounding Jesus. Open your ears to listen and your heart to receive his blessings. Contemplate and adore.
b. Contemplate and feel his hand on your head and feel his graces flowing through your body. Ask: “Lord, make a true child of my heavenly Father.” Contemplate and be grateful.
Think of everything that you can share with those around you about the experience you had with God, especially about discovering that “I was created to be a child of God.” The following points can help you to share with your community the experience of the lectio divina on the text.
- What have I discovered about God and about myself in this moment of prayer?
- How can I apply this text of Scripture at this moment of my life? What light does it give me? What challenges does it put before me?
- What concrete commitment does this text of Scripture ask of me in my spiritual life, in my community life?
- What has been my dominant sentiment during this moment of prayer?
Final Prayer of St. Augustine,Turning towards the Lord: Lord God, Father Almighty, with pure heart, as far as our littleness permits, allow us to give you our most devoted and sincere thanks, begging with all our strength from your particular goodness, that you deign to hear our petitions according to your goodwill, that by your power you may drive away the enemy from all our thoughts and actions, that you increase our faith, govern our mind and give us spiritual thoughts and bring us to your happiness, through your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, who with you lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen (Ps, 150:8).