27 September 2006: Wednesday of the 25th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 9, 1-6. Simplicity

The 18th Episode of Smallville’s Season 3 has Chloe Sullivan talk to Lex Luthor. Chloe has been infected with a truth serum that made people tell her the simple fact. Chloe asked Lex why he wants to ruin his father, and he said simply, “Because I want him to love me.” Usually, the truth can be said using a simple sentence. And a simple sentence can be very powerful.

In the brutal days of the Civil War in America, a simple note ended the war. The note came from President Lincoln to his general, Ulysses S. Grant. Three lines with the date and time on top.

April 7, 1865

11 o’clock am

General Sheridan says, “If the thing is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender.”

Let the thing be pressed.

A. Lincoln

Grant got the message and pressed it. Two days later at Appomattox, Robert E. Lee surrendered and the bloodiest war in American history ended. Simplicity is indeed powerful.

Jesus sent his apostles to preach and heal like him. He advised them to take only the barest necessities and to depend on God’s providence. The first reading from the Book of Proverbs had a wise man named Agur ask only for the truth and the little food he needed to live.

I used to give moral cases for my students to solve. I asked them to state the problem in a simple sentence. If they were able to tell me the problem plainly, I knew they understood the case. The one who can said it straightforwardly, knew it best. We all can complicate what is simple; but whoever can simplify what is complicated is a genius.

And so with the rest of us. Let us look into our lives, honestly, sincerely and truthfully. After all the things we acquired and the events and activities that occupied our days, what we want can be said simply: I love you. I am hurt. I am angry. I lost my faith. I am tired. I am sorry. Even God’s advice to a happy life is simple: Love God. Love neighbor. Nothing else.

Only when we are able to put our finger on the real issue and say it in easy words can we actually face them. It can end a disagreement. It can heal a hurt. It can deepen a relationship. It is powerful. The rule of composition which Fr. Joseph Galdon SJ taught me holds true also in life: simplify, simplify, simplify.

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