We are exhorted to have the faith of a little child. What does that mean?
Some people, I think, use that as an excuse not to understand, not to study the faith and the Church’s teachings. But what is the faith of a child, really?
I am a father of four. My children love me and have a faith in me. They trust me in such a way that humbles me. How can I imitate that in my love for and faith in God?
1. They trust me. When I throw my child up in the air, he or she squeals in delight with the sure knowledge that I will catch him or her. When I kiss my son goodnight, he goes to sleep knowing I will be there in the morning. Do I trust God with my very life? Or do I always question Him and try to run my life according to my will?
2. They love me unconditionally. Sure there are the temper tantrums when I do not give them what they want – that is the childish part. But even those always end with them in my arms, enjoying just being with me. Do I love God unconditionally? Do I praise Him even when things don’t go my way? Or do I have fair weather faith? Do I pray more when things are good and abandon Him when things are bad?
3. They are happy to see me. When I get home from work they shriek with excitement and throw their arms around me. I am eager to see the Lord? Do I get excited about the Holy Eucharist? Am I reverent and joyful at Adoration? Or do I leave Mass early and complain when the homily goes over ten minutes?
4. They learn from me. My children are eager to learn from me. They want to know my past, my goals for the future, how I see the world, and how I live in it. They sit at my feet (usually figuratively) and learn from me. Am I eager to learn from the Lord? Do I study scripture? Do I read about the Saints? Do I read the Catechism? Do I pay attention at Mass? Or do I think that all that stuff is for priests and nuns and if I just go to Mass once a week I’ll be ok?
5. They are obedient. This is the most important show of love, to me. When my children are obedient, they are telling me that my word and my desires are more important to them than their own. That is humbling to me, especially as they grow older. It is an awesome responsibility. Do I show God that same obedience? Do I show it to His bride, the Holy Catholic Church? Or do I pick and choose which of His teachings to follow? In my arrogance do I think I know better than 2000 years of teachers, know better than the Lord Himself?
So a childlike faith is not a childish faith. A childish faith has no depth, no substance. It is arrogant. It is based on emotion and is easily led astray.
A childlike faith is trusting, it is full of unconditional love, it is joyful, it is eager to learn, and it is obedient.
Oh God, grant me the faith of a child.