Kempis, in chapter five (1,5), argues for “humility, simplicity, and faith” in reading the Bible and, more broadly, in living our lives.
I pair his quote (in the headline) with Jesus’ first recorded words in Mark (from today’s Gospel reading [Mk 1:14-20]) to show that this was Jesus’ approach, as well. He comes out with a blunt message meant to strike at the heart. Brief, straightforward, and memorable. His time was short and he wasted neither this time, nor His words, getting about His Father’s business (see Lk 2:49).
While it is true that evaluation of one’s audience and consideration of pastoral concerns play important roles in how to formulate and deliver the Gospel message, being too subtle, as Kempis warns, so that the truth of the message is obscured, or worse yet, confused, is no way to approach evangelization. I’m reminded of Jesus’ admonition: “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Mt 5:37) from the Sermon on the Mount. I heard a preacher once say, “The devil’s favorite color is grey”; there is much truth to this. Bishop Barron speaks of a “beige Catholicism” which, in his words, “‘is the dominance of the prevailing culture over Catholicism,’ where Catholics are ‘too culturally accommodating’ and ‘excessively apologetic.'”
We should all make a habit to pray to the Holy Spirit, especially when engaging others in discussions regarding the Faith. The Spirit, who proceeds from the Son (see Jn 14:26) who is the Truth (see Jn 14:6), “will teach you at that moment what you should say” (Lk 12:12).
Altarpiece – “Sermon on the Mount” – detail
(Sankt Matthæus Kirke, Copenhagen, Denmark)
by Henrik Olrik (1830–1890)