Discipline of God
"Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by Him; for whom the Lord loves, He disciplines."
And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—
‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him;
for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.’
Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. (Hebrews 12: 5-13)
This passage about discipline is crucial for us to understand if we hope to grow in our personal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
"If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness."
I think these verses are important, primarily because they are inspired by God, but also because they draw an analogy we can understand.
As children our fathers and mothers disciplined us. We did not like it. We did not understand at the time that it was for our good. All we knew was that Mommy and Daddy were terribly unfair and mean and that when we grew up we would NEVER discipline our OWN children like that!
Then we got older and wiser and realized, "Oh! THAT is why my parents disciplined me. That's why they wouldn't buy me that toy or let me go to that party. If they hadn't disciplined me I would have become a spoiled brat!"
If our earthly fathers knew enough to discipline us out of love, how much more will our heavenly Father do the same, but in a more perfect way?
God allows us to experience all kinds of trials. We suffer illnesses, loss of jobs, friends, or family members. He does not give us everything we ask for in prayer. He often makes us wait. He allows us to make mistakes and suffer the consequences.
But when He does these things our temptation is so often to complain, "Why is God punishing me? Why doesn't He intervene to make my life perfect? Why doesn't He give me what I want when I want it?"
Today's Scripture has the response, "Did your parents treat you that way? And if they did not, why should God?"
Indeed God is our Father, but He is not an indulgent Father or a pushover. It is precisely BECAUSE He loves us that He disciplines us, so we can become strong and mature, the same things we want for our own children.
People don't discipline children they don't love. When I see a random child throwing a tantrum in the store, I think to myself "That's a shame" and continue with my day. I wouldn't dream of running over and correcting someone else's kid, frankly because they're not my responsibility and I don't really care.
On the other hand, if one of my godchildren were acting up, I would definitely let them know their behavior is not appropriate. I would do this because I love them dearly and care what kind of adults they become.
We need to realize that our earthly parents do not love us more than God does. If THEY disciplined us imperfectly and sometimes out of anger, then God disciplines us PERFECTLY and always out of LOVE.
But enough about discipline. Let's discuss another crucial topic.
While passing through an unnamed village someone says to Jesus, "Lord, will only a few people be saved?" He said in response: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough."
‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us”, then in reply he will say to you, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!” There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. (Luke 13:24-28)
These aren't the most encouraging words Jesus ever spoke. I much prefer "Come to me all you who labor and I will give you rest."
But like everything else, there is a time for resting and a time for striving. And THAT is the verb Jesus gives us today. Strive!
Are we striving to stay on the narrow path that leads to the narrow gate that opens up to Heaven?
This Catholic life of ours is not easy. We must be at Mass every Sunday, not to mention holy days of obligation. We must confess our mortal sins at least once a year but hopefully MUCH more frequently than that. We must fast one hour before receiving Holy Communion and refrain from it entirely if we have committed serious sin. Our marriages must be recognized by the Church and we must provide for the Church's material needs. And those are just the relatively easy externals!
Much harder are the internal dispositions we must strive for. We have to pray for our enemies, forgive those who offend or persecute us, love the poor, the homeless, the vulnerable, and the unborn.
Like I said, this life we have been baptized into is not easy. It can be all too tempting to tell ourselves, "God doesn't really care about all of these things. He's just happy if I show up."
We tell ourselves that at our own risk. If we want to achieve the final reward of unimaginable peace and joy in Heaven we have to strive for it.
Let us pray fervently that not a single one of us finds himself in that group of people outside knocking and saying "Lord, open the door for us!"
May we never hear Jesus say to us, "I do not know where you are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!"
After eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ and listening to His holy teachings let us strive to put them into practice.
Only in that way will we find ourselves among Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all the prophets, and the countless people from north, south, east, and west, who will recline at table in the Kingdom of God.