Feast of Holy Child
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
January 17, 2016
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
God reveals himself in many ways and forms. In the Old Testament, God revealed himself as the creator of all that live upon the earth and in the heavens. God revealed himself as the Spirit hovering above the face of the water. God created us in His own image. God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush and in the liberation of Israel from their bondage in Egypt when they crossed the Red Sea to the promised land. God revealed himself to Israel as the liberator, great provider. In the New Testament, God revealed himself in the person of Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son whom God sent to save the world from our sinfulness and restore us back to Him. God revealed himself through a messenger proclaiming that a Child Jesus, the Holy Child of God will be born and be among us. The child grew up in wisdom and grace and elevated the people’s understanding of God by showing them that everything is possible with God when we love God, love ourselves and our neighbors, that God is not confined in one’s country and territory, that God is a universal God where there is neither Jews nor Gentiles but only One God for all and that includes all, regardless of color, ethnicity, race, age, gender and whatever background one may have, for God loves us all.
And that’s how God revealed himself here at Holy Child and St. Martin. As a symbol of the presence of God and his miracles.
St Martin Parish during the 60’s was used to be a very popular and people filled parish with a lot of young people in their Sunday School and in their acolyte ministries. But diversity was not popular in this place then. 98 % were Europeans, and the other 2 % were one Japanese/Chinese family, who happened to be the Children of Elsie and Ernest Ching, and another black family have been attending their Sunday school. During the late 80’s however, part of the property of the Church where the houses around the corner are now situated has to be sold to support the salary of the priest and also to pay some of their loans from the Diocese. After which, the number of membership declined for many reasons, until only about 30 or less members were faithfully worshiping here.
On the other side of San Francisco, a group of about 50 or more Filipino families have been worshiping in an in law space at St. Barnabas started by then Fr. Sancho Gaerlan and succeeded by then Fr. Vito Villalon. It was said, “St. Barnabas congregation have the people but they are in need of a bigger space, while St Martin has the space but is in need of people.” Bishop William Swing saw that need. And because the bishop has the authority over mission stations, he made the two congregations agree to merge in Daly City during the early 1990’s and there emerged the name Holy Child and St. Martin. Now some of the original St. Martin’s didn’t like the idea of having St. Martin after the name Holy Child because they were here first, hence it was suggested that the name should be St. Martin and Holy Child. But theologically, God, the Holy Child should precede first before a disciple or Saint Martin. This idea was not acceptable to some and they left. But there were those who stayed and faithfully served this church. Since then, this church grew up in number until today. Look around you, see the diversity that God made us. The beauty of our diversity is when we all work together for the glory of God. That each culture is recognized and lifted in our midst. One does not dominate the other, but rather it is our joy to have another more in our family. There’s a plenty good room in God’s house. I want you all to remember that, plenty good room in God’s house and it is our joy to welcome more. Let us welcome all with genuine heart and continue to respect and recognize each other in all our doings for the glory of God. God turned water into wine!
And so today, I greet you happy Santo Nino Fiesta day!
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 was later discovered that the reason the Island of Cebu in the Philippines accepted and welcomed the group of Ferdinand Magellan was because they introduced the Holy Child Jesus in that community, which they relate of their own belief of a child saving that island from disasters. The Holy Child 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. My memory of that devastating moment 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. Leonard 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 shattered and melted windows and interior part of the church. I knelt at the altar for brief prayer and as I rose, I noticed the Santo Nino has never been damaged or burned nor any slight melt 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 is a miracle that happened 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.
What happened here during that Good Friday night needs to be shared. We need to share the love of God in sparing us from dissipation and restored us to become more stronger and blessed. We need to share 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. We have become the beacon of hope in this place, sharing the stories of those who are lost and bringing them to light.
God continues to be with us because we recognize his presence and his love. Miracles will continue to be revealed in this place where new wine, new spirit of love is shared. Just like what the Gospel tells us today. Jesus turned water into wine.
I remember in seminary when we had a regular morning Eucharist. The celebrant found that the wine have been emptied and didn’t know what to do. He prayed and after prayer, he asked the sacristan to get Coca Cola and gin tonic, mixed it and used it as the Eucharistic wine. Turning drinks into Eucharistic wine.
A small boy was asked by a visiting relative if he attended Sunday school.
When he said he did, he was asked, “What are you learning?”
“Last week,” came the reply, “our lesson was about when Jesus went
to a wedding and made water into wine.”
“And what did you learn from that story?” the relative inquired.
After thinking for a moment, the lad answered, “If you’re having a
wedding, make sure Jesus is there!”
It is indeed when Jesus is present in our midst that things become possible. When Mary found about the lack of wine, she immediately thought about Jesus and said to the attendant to just do what Jesus wants him to do. Jesus revealed his glory – and his disciples put their faith in him.
Jesus’ turning water into wine is itself a picture of all that he came to do. Jesus takes what is and shows us that it has the possibility to become something else. Something that is renewed and reenergized. That which is tired, worn out, devoid of joy, empty, and lacking purpose can be transformed. It can be turned into something rich, fragrant, and ripe with the fullness of joy through his presence, through his care.
The miracle in Cana also tells us that Jesus can bring new life. He can fill the emptiness in our lives – he can take whatever it is that we bring to him – no matter how little – or how much – and utterly remake it – giving to it a good taste which is beyond the best that we ourselves are capable of providing.
It is when we recognize the presence of God in our midst and do what is pleasing in God’s sight, that God reveals himself to us. May we continue to make miracles in this place and beyond, by sharing our stories, our compassion and love for all. Amen.