By Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo
Is Christianity hard or easy? Christianity has a lot of paradox such as to gain life we have to lose it (Matthew 16:25), to die to ourselves in order to live, to empty ourselves with the things of this world in order to be filled by God, and to give, in order to receive. Therefore, the answer to the question whether Christianity is hard or easy is not a yes or no. It is both. Christ said, “For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:30) It seems that the statement of our Lord is a contradiction, but only for the unrighteous, as St. Thomas Aquinas would say, because the unrighteous don’t want virtue.
Christianity is hard in the same way as virtue is hard but only in the first instances. After a number of tries (a certain scientific study says that it takes two months to make a habit ingrained in you if you practice that habit daily) virtue becomes part of you such as the virtue of punctuality and hard work. Later on, virtue becomes easy, and you enjoy the fruits of it. The same thing with being a Christian. A practicing Christian of course, not just a Christian by name only.
Second, Christianity is hard because Christianity is all about love. Love of God and love of neighbor. Love is hard, because to love, is to sacrifice oneself. Just ask parents how much they have sacrificed themselves for their children. But it is sacrificing oneself for a meaningful thing, that’s why it also becomes easy and makes people happy. Lovers actually enjoy doing hard things for their beloved—the very things non-lovers complain about. There is no such thing as a happy life without duty as imagined by the lazy and the reprobates. True happiness comes from love and love is not just a feeling or a sentiment but are deeds, deeds of love. As the homily that the U.S. bishops would recommend for all wedding ceremonies says about love, “Married life can be difficult and burdensome. Only love can make it easy. Only perfect love can make it a joy.”
The transformation of course from duty to love, and from burden to joy, is gradual, like a tide, it is not sudden, as we grow in the state of grace like a plant. We can’t expect instant holiness or sanctification by going faster than the grace God gives us on a daily basis. For Christians, the very presence of Christ in their souls makes obedience easy and joyful because it comes from within, from love and from free choice motivated by love, rather than from without, from obligation and duty. Deliberate choice makes a world of difference. In the world of work, it makes things easy even if your work or occupation is monotonous or repetitive (I don’t know of a job that is not repetitive) because you were not forced to take on that job, it was your choice to sign up for that job. Forced job sounds like prison.
“For my yoke is easy and my burden light.” The key word in Christ’s statement is the word “my”, meaning a yoke that Christ gives us, and not a yoke of our own choosing. The yoke and burden that Christ gives us is obedience to His will for us. So, to para-phrase Christ’s statement, it would then become, “If you do my will instead of yours, then your yoke becomes easy and your burden becomes light, because I will give you the grace to carry them and it will spur the growth of love for Me.” And then “you fill find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29)