Second Sunday After Epiphany
January 12, 2014
(Matthew 3: 13-17)
Fr. Leonard Oakes
“Let go, for in you, God is well pleased”
Today is the Feast of the Santo Nino so I greet you all Happy Fiesta!
The story of Santo Nino came to us in many different ways. I was reading the article of our brother Gino Soberano on the origin of Santo Nino. In his article he wrote, “Sto. Nino originated in Europe in the early 15th century. It spread its popularity throughout the Christian world including the Philippines after Ferdinand Magellan had discovered the Island in 1521. It traces its roots in a small town in Prague where the Holy Infant image was molded in a wax form and given as a gift to an Empress. Even Queens possessed this Holy image. From generation to generation, it has been told that in different places in Europe and in many different countries, the Holy Infant Jesus worked miracles where he was honored and adored. He turned barren towns into prosperous cities. He turned Churches alive with people, he cured many diseases.”
In 1993, the Holy Infant Jesus Replica was airlifted from Manila to San Francisco and was officially enthroned by Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Diocese of California on that same year With The Rev. Vito Villalon as the Vicar. Mng. Gino revealed to us of an inscription he once read, “The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.”
In April of 2005, the church was devastated with fire coming from the office of Fr. Rico, the Vicar at that time. It was the night before Easter Sunday in 2005, the memory is still vivid. A church neighbor, Nollet Mata called me on the phone at around 11 PM. His voice was filled with worries as he reported to me, “Fr. the church is on fire” I immediately called fr Bayani who was living in Vallejo and informed him of the incident. I rushed to the church and saw the fire and smoke from the church office. I was enveloped with fear and started to shiver as I prayed to God to spare the church. I Introduced myself to the Fire battalion chief as the assistant priest of the church. He asked me to come with him and walked me through the smoke into the church. I saw the unimaginable display of shattered and melted windows and interior part of the church. I knelt at the altar for brief prayer and as I rose, I noticed that the Santo Nino has never been damaged or burned nor any slight melting happened. I had goose bumps. I’ve never been that much of a santo Nino fun until I myself had witnessed the miracle that just happened in my very eyes. He transformed me that day. I remember what my mom told me that the sto. Nino is a patron of water. That to me and the rest of us was a miracle that happened and continue to happen in this Church.
Yet, a miracle continues to happen in this Church. People have been healed and touched. With your presence and more others to come, bringing forth your talents, time, treasures and skills before God in this Church is certainly a miracle worth celebrating. Because this Church is Alive! There is life among us shared in every moment we come together for worship. This church was baptized with both the baptism of fire and water and we live to witness and share that miracle.
Baptism is about sharing, sharing the love, the joy and the light that we receive from God. Sharing the grace we enjoy to those who are deprived of having them; the poor, the unemployed, the homeless and the uninsured. We are bound to share the blessings of our Health and Wellness Ministry to the rest of the community. Such is the outward visible sign of the inward grace that we receive from God. Baptism is about sharing the stories of those who are lost and bringing them to light. Baptism is about sharing what we have long been hoarding, the love and compassion to others.
The beauty of this feast, which shows us that the Son of God was humble enough to be baptized by a human, compels us to consider the power of God’s love in us when we are willing to let go of being the center of attention, and the ones who try to make everything happen our way. This is not an easy way of life. But it is the Christian way of life. We need to be willing to immerse ourselves in what God wants for us. We are immersed in God’s life and in the Church. Jesus teaches us by his example to let go of those things which keep us from being the instruments of holiness and love that God wants us to be. Instead let us be humble enough to let go of all that clutters our life and our vision, and the we just might be able to pay enough attention to hear our heavenly Father tell us that indeed, he is “well pleased.”
In the words of the prophet Isaiah, “see, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare”. We have to let go of things that hold us back in following Christ and embrace things that renew us.
There is a story about a zoo that was trapping monkeys. The zoo trappers put out coconuts underneath a coconut tree, and these coconuts had holes drilled in them. The holes were about the size of a tightly squeezed fist of a monkey. The monkey would squeeze its hand through the hole and grab the white coconut inside. They would do the same thing with their other hand and their two feet. By doing so, their hand became larger and they could not withdraw or remove their hands through the coconut holes. The only way to become free was to “let go” To let go of the white coconut inside the shell. Similarly with us, the only way to emotional freedom in life is to “let go.” To let go of those things that hinder or prevent us from fully following Jesus. To let go of our prejudices and be immersed with Christ in that river Jordan experience. And alas, come out from the water following the voice of God, “With you I am well pleased.” Let the presence of God in us shape our daily lives and heal us. The Spirit of Christ inside of us heals us, and therefore we gradually “let go”. Amen.