In our Gospel today, Jesus praises individuals who are child-like. We have heard this commendation for the child-like many times; child-like persons are comfortable with dependence. They do not have to know how everything in the world works in order to believe God exists and guides creation. They can forgive although being deeply wounded. The true gift of the child-like is not that their faith has never changed. Their faith has returned them to appreciate their smallness in being able to understand a mystery beyond simple comprehension.
Paul Ricoeur, a 20th century French philosopher, theorized that adult-like faith must pass through a critical stage of re-examination. Questions about faith and religion become incorporated into the search for an identity in our adolescence and adult life. At some point, we each have had to go through periods of doubt and uncertainty over the strength of our evidence to believe in God, namely our life experiences, rational reflection, and prayer. The critical re-examination leads into what Ricoeur terms a second naïveté. It is when we receive the gift to appreciate our religious tradition and symbols with a heightened awareness of the underlying Mystery of God to which they point. Instead of the need to clearly grasp, we instead relate to what we cannot fully understand like a child again. It is a message we need to hear repeatedly to remember that to be child-like and that our periods of doubts and fear may draw us closer to the Mystery of God.
Have I experienced something akin to a second naïveté? How does God invite me to be more child-like?