Simplicity is the sign and seal of the Gospel, because it is the distinctive feature, the very nature, of the Savior. From the first moment of His life until His last breath upon the Cross, Jesus never failed to look toward His Father and to act for God. The Gospel bears testimony to this, as well as all the words and acts of Jesus Himself. “When Christ cometh into the world,” says St. Paul, “He saith, ‘Behold I come to do Thy will, O God.’ . . . I will give my laws in their hearts.” His first thought was for God. The first use He made of His liberty was to submit to the will of God and to give Himself up wholly to Him.
And in what was to follow, Jesus never swerved one instant from this attitude. When Mary and Joseph had found Him in the Temple and were in great distress, wondering at His conduct, His only reply was: “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”
During the thirty years spent at Nazareth, what did He do? He remained in the presence of God, working in obedience and humility, so that He might please God and live wholly for Him.
When at the age of thirty, He leaves His Mother and retires into the desert, it is because He is led there by the Holy Spirit. When the Devil tempts Him, it is in God’s name that He repels him: “Not on bread alone doth man live, but on every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. . . . Him only shalt thou serve.”
On the banks of the Jordan, the Spirit of God descends visibly upon Jesus in the form of a dove. When He enters the synagogue, He opens the Gospels at this passage: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, wherefore He hath anointed me.”
His first reply to the Samaritan who questions Him concerning the true worship is: “The true adorers shall adore the Father in spirit and in truth.” And immediately after that, He says to His Apostles, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.”
To all the questions put to Him, to all the traps laid for Him, and to all the outrages proffered Him, He always replies by speaking of His Father, of the offenses and insults offered to God, and of the love, confidence, and submission that all owe to Him. He sums up all religion, law, and morality in this one unique precept: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.”
Has the world ever seen teaching, philosophy, or doctrine more simple than our Lord’s sermon in which He forbids having two masters and reduces all to the love of God?
And does not His love of simplicity account for His invectives and menaces against the Pharisees? Was it not their hypocrisy, cheating, lying, and duplicity that He condemned with each oft-repeated “Woe to you”? “You make clean the edge of the cup, but within you leave it full of bitterness. You have sat down in the seat of Moses, but of his works you fulfill nothing. On the widow and orphan you put burdens which you yourselves could not bear. You loose your ox and your ass on the Sabbath Day, and lead them to the drinking place — yet you would not have me heal this woman of her infirmity. You are like whited sepulchers, which within are full of filthiness and corruption.” Each time Jesus condemns the Pharisees, it is because of their hypocrisy and their lack of simplicity. They desired to please men and not God — hence Jesus’ outbursts of anger against them.
Jesus loved little children because of their simplicity, this simplicity which He holds up to us as a model and as the condition of our reaching Heaven.
The simplicity of Jesus is transmitted to the hearts of His Apostles. They are spellbound and irresistibly attracted by it. “Master, where dwellest Thou?” they asked of Him, and He replied, “Come and see.” And they went at once and remained with Him. “Follow me,” He said to them once again, and without hesitation they left their employment, their nets, their work, their kindred — all, in effect — to follow Him.
He required an absolute simplicity of language as well: “Yea, yea; no, no. And that which is over and above this is evil.”103 In Himself, He carried simplicity to its highest degree. He spoke as He thought, and He thought as His Father does: “As I hear, so I judge.” He listens within Himself to the word of God, to the judgment of God, and He pronounces the selfsame word; He delivers the same judgment. Between Him and His Father there exists an absolute and unchanging conformity of thought, will, and feeling — that perfect unity of heart and of love which constitutes the ideal of simplicity.
In Jesus, the human spirit is so wholly submissive and docile to the inspiration of the Spirit of God that there is in truth only one spirit, according to the word of the apostle: “He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”
The Passion and Simplicity of Jesus
The simplicity of Jesus shows with an even greater beauty during His Passion. He is simple indeed at Gethsemane. His hour has come, His Father has spoken, and that suffices. He seeks neither to hide, to defend, nor to escape. He goes straight to meet suffering and death. His human nature is afraid, shrinks, trembles, and begs for mercy. He rises above it; He does not for one instant draw back: “For this am I come!” He might well have asked His Father to send angels to deliver Him. He never considered it. He cared only to obey and to execute the decrees of Providence.
Before the Council, He is simple in word and manner. He is meek and dignified, unassuming and resolute. He has not that stoic severity of look and bearing which certain painters lend to Him. His dignity is gentle. His firmness indicates goodness. What is human fades from Him; what is divine alone appears. He forgets Himself to see only God. He knows that nothing can happen except by the will of His Father, that His judges and torturers have no power against Him save that which God permits. And this is why, above all, He keeps silent, never seeking to defend Himself, referring all to His Father alone.
He is simple upon Calvary. No bitterness, no reproach for those who crucify Him nor for the throng who outrage Him. No thought of Himself, not a single complaint. He is conscious only of God and the souls of sinners. He thirsts for these souls. He pardons them. He promises them an eternity in Paradise. He bequeaths to them His Mother.
With regard to His Father, in the very moment of the most cruel neglect, the most dire distress, He speaks only of submission and confidence.
O my Savior, how adorable is Thy simplicity!
What unity reigns in Thy thoughts, affections, and
deeds, in Thy sufferings, Thy virtues and prayers!
All is for God and our souls, and it is
always for God that Thou savest our souls,
so that His name may be hallowed by them,
His kingdom come, and His
will be done through them. Souls are the harvest, and the harvest is for the Master.
So one thing alone is necessary: to glorify God in Himself, to glorify Him in souls and by souls, to look at God always, to work for God always, to refer all that you do to Him, to see only the Creator in the creature, and the creature only in God — that is the whole aim of the life of Jesus, and there is also perfect simplicity.
Ah, how lofty and beautiful is simplicity in itself, but how much more beautiful and how much more attractive, how holy, adorable, and divine in the Heart and soul of Jesus! For simplicity is in truth the spirit of Jesus, the spirit of God in the creature.
May simplicity be our habitual exercise, our unceasing inspiration, our very life and soul. In its practice, may we learn to die to all created things and live only to the Creator. May all that is human in us vanish, and that alone remain which is divine; or at least, since to be human is our condition, may our humanity become divine as in Jesus, and, seeking God in all things by means of simplicity, may we find Him in all things, cleave to Him, and rest in Him forever.