Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Simple vs. Easy

The seminarians had suggested that we celebrate the Memoria of St. John Mary Vianney (Jean Marie, if one is inclined to use the French spelling). Taking up the suggestion of Serra Club, we joined them in preparing for this Memoria by doing the “potato fast” at dinner for the nine days leading up to the Memoria; in other words, a novena. There is a prayer and meditation before we embark on eating our one potato. One could say that this was a simple novena to make because it was so straightforward: pray, then eat. However, I would not like to venture to call this easy.

We often use the two words “simple” and “easy” interchangeably. Perhaps there are many simple things that are easy as well but the two words are not synonyms. To say that something is simple merely tells us that it is “not complex” or “not complicated”. We might even say that something simple had few parts. Something being “easy” has to do with the skill of a person. Whether something is simple or difficult depends on the competence of the person. We tend to be able to something “easy” after a few tries, if not in one. Let's take a look at an example. The process of threading a needle is simple. One just has to put one end of the thread through the eye of the needle. Yet, if I had bad eyesight, which I do now that I am entering middle age, I may not be able to do it in one try. If I was nervous and my hands were shaky, it would definitely not be “easy” for me to do it.

We could say that following the will of God is simple. We just need to do what He desires of us. Yet we are not really competent to do just that because of sin in our lives. Sin affects our ability to listen carefully to what God says. Sin affects our response as well. This is not to say that we are all doomed. As St. Paul said in Rom 7:25, Jesus Christ has saved us. We are able to follow the law of love despite still being affected by the law of sin. So let us not be too hasty to say we are not able to follow God’s will because through Christ, we have been given a simple way. Let us not be too arrogant to say that we are perfectly able to follow Him because despite being simple, it is not easy at all, considering that we are not yet perfect. When can we be perfect? When we concretely encounter Christ at our earthly death or His second coming. St. John suggests this in the third chapter of his first epistle. Let's spend some time reading I John 3.

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