Straightforward Simplicity
by Bishop Joseph McKinney

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Will it be the reign of Satan or the reign of God? is the question for our lifetime. Will Satan prevail so that death is our way of life and destiny? To help us answer that question for ourselves, God sent us his Son, then the Holy Spirit to establish his reign and end the reign of Satan like the sun defeats darkness.

Satan would have us become people of sophisticated arrogance instead of people of straightforward simplicity. We often see this happen in the world of politics. To get the candidate's ear and influence him/her to establish ways that satisfy the givers' point of view becomes very complicated. The laws try to obstruct out-and-out bribery. Supposedly, one cannot buy power. So many follow the way of sophisticated arrogance. In order that their way prevails, they may do things that influence yet are not considered bribery.

For example, when laws tried to restrict the amount of money given to a candidate, sophisticated arrogant people found ways to get around restrictions. One man bought the most advanced printing apparatus and offered to do the printing for the election campaign of candidates. That is not the way of straightforward simplicity, which Jesus encourages; that's the way of sophisticated arrogance that Satan uses to influence. It's arrogant because it follows the thinking of the one who says, "What's in it for me?" It's sophisticated because it is not direct and simple; it is circuitous and complicated. In the reign of God, straightforward simplicity is the way. It is also the way to relate to God.

1 was fortunate to have a very wise father who showed special love for me. But there were clearly times he disciplined me and made it clear that it was for my own good. One time with straightforward simplicity I asked if I could have a pocketknife like his. I was only four years old. My dad's answer was, "We have to talk about that." A short time later he had me sit down and explained all the good things one could do with a knife and explained the harm that could be done if I abused the knife. My dad's answer then was, "It's too early for you to have your own knife. Whenever you need a knife, ask to use mine and we'll see if you can use it properly." I walked away very content, anxious to show I could use good judgment in using a knife.

Our God teaches like my father. God is looking out for our best interests. Sometimes we want things that can cause great harm. Then God says "no" for our own good. That should never keep us from asking, because God wants us to knock. We don't have to find clever ways to ask. Straightforward simplicity works, but we should never feel hurt if God says, "No" or "Not yet." In some ways God is like a coach training us for the game of life. If we suspect we are doing something wrong we should feel free to go to him for pointers. God wants to help us, not judge us. He's ready to help us do things better; he is not trying to make things harder. When we can confidently turn to him with straightforward simplicity, He can help us more.

When I was just entering my teen years, I entered the seminary. There we were expected to spend a lot of time in prayer and I developed some wrong attitudes about this practice. Since prayer was talking to God, that meant I had to find a lot of words. When I ran out of words, I thought I wasn't praying. That created a big problem. I often ran out of words. I did not understand straightforward simplicity.

Prayer also includes paying attention to God. In silence we can pray and often God finds ways to inspire us with his wisdom. I can also have a grateful heart for all his gifts. I can give God glory by recognizing all the good things he does for me. Being sophisticated by using big words or making complicated explanations is not important to God. He prefers that we speak up with straightforward simplicity. That's why he wants us to be childlike.

God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his decree. Those whom he foreknew he predestined to share the image of his Son, that the Son might be the first-born of many brothers. Those he predestined he likewise called, those he called he also justified, and those he justified he in turn glorified. What shall we say after that? If God is for us, who can be against us? Is it possible that he who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for the sake of us all will not grant us all things besides? (See Romans 8: 28-32)

Jesus asked us to be childlike, not childish. When we are childish we pout, we whine, we throw tantrums, we insist on getting our way. Straightforward simplicity should mark our prayer. Straightforward simplicity gets God's attention and we can be sure that his responses will be marked by merciful love. When we are childlike we are like a young person sitting on our father’s lap. He asks, "How are things going?" We explain. We can also ask for anything with the confidence that God will not grant our request unless it is good for us.

Filial trust is the confident assurance that when God says "no" it is because it is not good for us at this time of our life. We can ask again later, but at this moment it is better to be content with God's answer. One of the traits that make a friend special is that we know we can trust him. Jesus confides that he wants to be our friend and clearly we know that we can trust him. Mother Theresa was once asked how she explained her success. Her answer was "Success? My God has not asked me to be successful; he wants me to be faithful."

Filial trust is part of the prayer of Jesus in the Garden. "Let this cup pass. Yet, not my will but thine be done." It is important for us to have an "Amen" attitude that says yes to God's will. Our trust should be that of a child whose father is anxious for us to be a winner at life.

Bishop Joseph C. McKinney is the retired Bishop of the Diocese of Grand Rapids and the former Chairman of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.     

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