Children teach us so much about faith through their simplicity and trust, yet sometimes we overlook them because they are little. In their littleness, we can tend to disregard the wisdom children can teach us. The same is true for the Gospel; sometimes we disregard little details in the Gospels that can teach us so much. Take this Sunday’s Gospel for example, in which there is a detail about a little boy. Within this detail about the boy, however, lays hidden a great treasure for the spiritual life.
For us, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish may overshadow the detail which led to the miracle. Simon Peter told Jesus about the little boy who had five loaves and two fish, but Simon Peter was skeptical. Simon Peter wondered what good such a small amount of food would do for such a large group of people. Look at the contrast between Simon Peter and the boy: Simon Peter seems skeptical, but the boy seems to trust; Simon Peter questions, but the boy takes action and gives.
Take a moment to prayerfully ponder the scene. Was there a conversation that took place between the boy and Jesus? What was the boy thinking? Was he worried about giving his food away, worried that he, too, would go hungry? Did Jesus have to encourage him by telling the boy to trust, that he would be blessed if he gave him the loaves and fish? None of these details are recorded in the Gospel. We know, however, that ultimately the boy trusted and gave Jesus all the food he had.
The little boy teaches us a tremendous lesson about the spiritual life. He teaches us that we are to trust Jesus completely by giving ourselves to him. Now, we may think that we don’t have much to give to Jesus, for sometimes we see how little we are. Maybe we think we’re not very talented or maybe we have a low opinion of ourselves. Like Simon Peter we might say to the Lord, “there are only five loaves and two fish.” In other words, “Lord, I’m not very gifted, but I’m going to give myself to you anyway. And if you want to use me to make you known and loved, then I’m willing.” What’s so beautiful about this disposition of ours is that the Lord takes the little we offer him and multiplies it.
Like the boy, Jesus invites us to surrender ourselves completely to him; and we don’t lose anything when we give ourselves to Jesus. As Pope Emeritus Benedict said in his inaugural homily, “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return.”