The Gospel is simple, right? Just believe in Jesus and you will be saved. Well, it may be simple, but it’s not simplistic. After all, Jesus spent three years teaching His disciples what He wanted them to teach us. Then, the Apostles spent years teaching others through oral Tradition and written letters. So, there must be more to learn and do. The new birth is just that…a birth. After birth comes growing and learning. In other words, maturing in the Faith is just as important as being born into it. Having the faith of a child is not the same thing as remaining immature and ignorant. Childlike faith is not childish faith.
It seems many folks leave Catholicism (or avoid converting to it) because they are turned off by the complexity of it. They want to “simply believe” without all the “extra stuff” that seems to complicate matters. Imagine the Apostles saying to Jesus, “Umm, Master, can you just cut to the chase, please? Why is it taking you years to tell us what we need to know? Isn’t it enough that we believe in you?” Yes, it was a “simple” step to drop everything and follow Jesus. No, it was not “simplistic” in the sense that nothing else would need to be learned or accomplished after that initial step. As Paul said, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)
Take, for example, how Jesus healed a certain blind man. The man believed Jesus could do it. The faith was there. Jesus could have simply said, “You’re healed.” Instead, Jesus spit on the ground, made some clay, rubbed it in the man’s eyes and told him to go wash it off (John Chapter 9). After following Jesus’ directions, the man was healed. For some reason, Jesus “complicated” things. Notice, the blind man did not object and say, “Forget all this mud and washing business! Why are you making me jump through all these hoops? Just heal me, for crying out loud!” The blind man did not insist on simplicity at the expense of heeding Christ’s words.
Catholicism is about following the directions of Christ in some very particular ways that go beyond the initial step of the new birth. If you are avoiding the Church because of “all the rules and extra stuff” what you are actually doing is dismissing the directions of Christ. What the Apostles learned from Christ and handed on to us is filled with depth and richness. It has also matured over 2000 years. It takes a lifetime to scratch the surface.
Nevertheless, if you insist on focusing on simplicity, even Catholicism offers that. Believe in Christ and then, like the blind man, “do whatever He tells you” (as Mary said in John 2:5). In other words, go to Mass. Go to confession. Partake of the Sacraments that Jesus gave us. Love your neighbor as yourself. It’s really not so complicated after all. Yet, at the same time, it is extremely deep and complex. We just have to stop the excuses and all the attempts to practice Christianity on our own terms. Let’s be honest. Sometimes we demand simplicity because we are simply being lazy.