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Spiritual Reflection for Second Sunday in Lent

Deep Simplicity 

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. —Mark 8: 35

A recent headline in Forbes caught my eye: “Apple Now Most Valuable Company in History.” Apple’s value had topped $ 620 billion and it is now is the richest company in the history of the planet, outranking any other business you can think of—Microsoft, Amazon, General Motors, Boeing. 

I began to wonder why. What’s the secret of Apple’s success? This led me to an article about the late Steve Jobs in Smithsonian magazine. There I learned that the mantra of Apple’s founding CEO was “simplify, simplify, simplify.” The simplicity Jobs created at Apple was not something shallow or superficial. It was a deep simplicity based on an understanding of the essence of every Apple product as well as the elementary psychology of high-tech consumers. Deep simplicity means knowing what consumers most want and what they most fear about technology. It means understanding how rival producers are getting it wrong. If other manufacturers are churning out clunky black-box PCs, then Apple products will be sleek and luminous.

Steve Jobs put it this way: “To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.” To design a product with deep simplicity, you must “understand everything about it and how it is manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”

As I read these words by Steve Jobs, I began thinking about Jesus. It dawned on me that the same kind of deep simplicity inherent in the success of Apple is also at the core (so to speak!) of the message of Christ. “To be truly simple, you have to go really deep.” Doesn’t that remind you of Jesus? Doesn’t he understand everything about us and how we are made? Who better knows our deepest fears and needs than he? Is he not famous for cutting through what is nonessential and getting to the heart of the matter?

And for Jesus, the heart of the matter is always a matter of the heart. When summing up the law and the prophets, he speaks of nothing but love: we are to love God with our whole being and love our neighbour as we love ourselves. In word and deed Jesus’s message is consistent. Through parables and preaching, through acts of healing and compassion, he teaches us again and again to love God and to love one another. On the night before he is handed over to suffering and death, he explains that his coming death on the cross is the ultimate expression of God’s unrestrained love for humankind. 

“Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” With our being separated from God by our manifold sins, by our failure to love God with our whole hearts and to love our neighbour as ourselves, the cross opens the way for us to be in communion with God. In the words of the gospel of John: “If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

The eighth chapter of the gospel of Mark portrays Jesus preparing his disciples for the time of his ultimate sacrifice upon the cross. Peter objects. And Jesus turns upon Peter and rebukes him, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Having rebuked Peter, Jesus then puts his message as clearly as ever before. “For those who want to save their lives will lose it,” he says, meaning that those who hold tightly to what they have will lose what they most deeply desire. “And those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it,” he adds, meaning that those who give themselves away in love will gain a life eternally in communion with God.

Jesus knows there is nothing we fear more than being isolated, disconnected, and abandoned. To be alone is to be vulnerable to extinction, to be cast adrift in the great void of the universe. Jesus teaches that through love we satisfy our deepest longings for connection and communion. To open our hearts to receive the self-giving love of God through Christ is to be reconnected gracefully to that from which we have been separated by our sins. To give ourselves away in love is to be open to receiving the love of others, becoming one in a greater unity, in communion, with our loving Creator and with all of God’s bountiful creation.

Rawls, James J.. On the Way: 100 Reflections on the Journey of Faith. WestBow Press. Kindle Edition. 


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