Sunday, April 3, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes....

I'm not sure what we are supposed to call it these days. When I was growing up it was the 'Feeding of the Multitude'. I guess my childhood coincided with that period of catechesis when people were beginning to get worried about the traditional names of Bible stories for fear that they might exclude some concerned group. A generation before me probably would have known it as the 'Feeding of the 5000'. But that number, by the biblical account itself, excluded some others who were present- women and children. I vaguely remember it being presented as the story of the 'Boy and his lunch pack'. You can probably tell the 1970s had arrived and some pretty nasty paraphrase translations with their accompanying abstract illustrations.

The point of today's Gospel is obviously twofold; (1) to give an account of a great miracle witnessed by many and (2) to tell a story about how sacrifices, no matter how small, even if they are intuitive, can be used for great things by God. In relation to the first purpose we have to remember that the Gospels are primarily documents giving witness to the Divine nature of Jesus- they are apologetic. You can almost imagine that this story just had to be included because presumably many people who had witnessed this miracle were still around and remembered the day well. What details they knew about the origins of their lunch are not clear. Possibly the immediate disciples, and the small boy, were the only ones who knew the full story. And it's that small boy that got me thinking.

Jesus used the sacrificial offering of a mere infant for great purposes on that day. Do we, today, have a tendency to over infantilise (if there is such a word) the spiritual potency of children? Do we avoid giving them credit for the spiritual insights that they have? After all how many times does Holy Scripture exhort us to be childlike in our approach to the faith. I suspect there is a tendency, indeed a presumption, that young children are not ready to cope with some elements of the faith, the Real Presence for example. More likely the adult authors of the catechetical material have been imposing their own doubts onto the minds of younger Christians for whom there is little problem with what we, as adults, tend to fret about.

Some years ago a fellow priest visited a house of  a young family in a parish he was supplying in. It was within the first week and he was not well known. Certainly the children hadn't quite got to grips with his name. The mother of the house, greeting me at the door had a toddler to hand. 'You know Fr Brown don't you?' she said to the child. 'Yes' replied the child. 'He's the one who brings Jesus down to us from the altar.'  As I heard the story of a toddlers simple act of faith all I could think of was; 'Well that explanation is fine to me'.

1 comment:

  1. Father, the Gospel could be telling us how to serve the common good. We totally agree with your point number 2 and this is what we teach our children. We are convinced the small sacrifices are very important in our day to day lives. Thank you for your blog ministry, it is very important for us.


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