Things that are simple are not always easy. Eating your favorite ice cream is simple and easy. Swallowing bitter medicine is simple but not easy. It can be quite difficult to do some things that are not at all complicated. In the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, there is a scene where Indian Jones has to step out onto a bridge that cannot be seen. It is essentially a leap of faith. It is an uncomplicated, simple act. Just step off of the cliff. But it is at the same time a very difficult act. “Simple” does not automatically imply “easy.”
The Gospel is simple. All one has to do is place faith in Christ. Doing so has been called by some the simplest yet most difficult thing in the world. The difficulty arises because in order to place trust in Christ we must let go of whatever else holds our trust (usually our own pride and personal opinions). It’s really the letting go that causes the difficulty. It’s like stepping off of the cliff when you can’t see the bridge.
The Bible tells us of the rich, young man that asked Jesus what he needed to do to be saved. He had kept the law and told Jesus so. “What else do I lack?” he asked. “Sell everything you have, give it to the poor and come follow me,” Jesus told him. The young man went away sad because he had many possessions. Simple, but not easy. There is always something to let go of. That’s the hard part.
There are many folks that have left Catholicism in favor of a “simple Gospel.” I used to be one of those folks. It took me a while to realize that being Catholic isn’t complicated. It’s really quite simple. Just trust Jesus. He said he would build his Church, so just trust him. Follow his Church. He put it there for a reason. That doesn’t mean it will be “easy.” There are some teachings of the Church that are not easy to submit to. But that’s not a problem with the teaching, that’s a problem with me letting go of something (usually my own pride or control).
Lots of people leave Catholicism not because they have discovered a more “simple” Gospel, but because they want an easier Gospel that conforms to their own opinions and lifestyles. Church teachings can be difficult to submit to. The same can be said of Christ’s teachings. Just ask the rich young man. The problem was within him, not within Christ’s teaching.
Catholicism has 2000 years of depth and richness to explore. In that sense it is complex and multifaceted. But it is simultaneously simple. St. Therese of Lesuix (The Little Flower) spoke of her “little way” of simple faith in Christ. Yet, she was so deep and profound in her spirituality that she was declared one of only 30 “Doctors of the Church.” That’s one thing I love about Catholicism. It is so deep yet so simple.
Being non-Catholic was, in some ways, more complicated with all the differing doctrines and opinions on faith and morals. It was like being set adrift with no one at the helm. I found myself looking for a church that aligned with what I believed. That made me the final authority, not Christ and his Church. It can be easier to belong to a church that believes everything the way you do (or to belong to no church at all). But that’s when you create God in your own image. It’s easier to build a golden calf than to trust God and follow his lead.
The Gospel is very simple. Just follow Christ and the Church he built for you. Easy? Not always. Simple? Yes. Not complicated at all. It’s a simple leap of faith. When your feet hit the bridge, that’s when the “yoke is easy and the burden is light.”