Pagan or Christian? 

By Jason A. Baguia |January 22,2019 - 07:59 AM

JASON BAGUIA

 
Something is lost in the elevation of the Holy Child in the manger to the status of small king, something that we should retrieve: our appreciation of weakness. 
 
This was the takeoff point of the homily that Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo of Cebu delivered at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño on the Solemnity of the Child Jesus on Sunday. 
 
The appreciation of weakness is lost even in the devotion to the adult Jesus, the Black Nazarene, the bishop suggested. 
 
Whether in devotion to the Holy Child or to the Christ carrying the Cross, we miss the point in the incarnation of God when we approach him solely in his might. 
 
There is nothing wrong with focusing on the power of God, Bishop Villarojo said, but this focus should not lead to an obsession with divine omnipotence.
 
The obsession with God as a power figure has dire consequences. It has resulted, the bishop intimated, in a desire to grasp at God and wield his power against perceived enemies, a desire for a deity who takes our side and strikes our foes.
 
An example is devotees’ struggle to reach for the image of the Black Nazarene even at the cost of injury or even death to fellow believers. We hanker after divine power for our selfish intentions, never mind that such frenzy for an empowering divinity means we crush fellow human beings.
 
Worse, our playing blind to the weakness of the God-man in the manger, the God-man carrying the cross makes us susceptible to being cowed or made pliant to any human who plays God by wielding power.
 
We become supportive of humans in power who promise to solve our problems even in ways that are contrary to the way of the Child in the manger, contrary to the way of the Christ who carries the cross for the salvation of all.
 
The country is drenched in blood. Many have been killed by killers enabled by the powerful among us who promised to protect us from our enemies. Our streets are drenched in the blood of the people whom we claim are our enemies, whom we claim deserve death dealt by human lords. We say that if one is good they will not be killed. But how many good people have already been killed? Do we wait till someone we know is killed, too?
 
There is but a small step from obsession with an exclusively powerful God who can fix everything, who can pulverize our adversaries to forgetting the weak Santo Niño and Black Nazarene in favor of any human alternative who shows off power.
 
This, however, is the difference between the pagan and the Christian, the bishop said. The pagan makes sacrifices and offerings to gain the approval of a God of power who would solve everything and defeat our perceived enemies. The Christian follows a God who has assumed the weakness of human nature and thereby entrusts himself to the Christian’s care, a God whose incarnation urges the Christian to respond to his fellow human beings as brothers and sisters who need his love and care.
 
In the Santo Niño or in the Black Nazarene, God is one with the small, the weak, the innocent, the downtrodden. In them, He bids us to get rid of our disposition to abandon our concerns to the whims of a powerful God who can grant our wishes, and to be concerned for, responsible for, care for one another. 
 
This care should extend to the earth itself, which suffers our indifference to it. Workers may be paid to clean after the trash that covers our streets after a procession or parade, but if instead of properly throwing away garbage, we just litter, thinking that a powerful God can heal the earth at the click of fingers, no worker can cope with the mountains of filth that we heap on our planet.

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