21st Sunday in Ordinary Time. August 25th 2013
Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
The joy of discipline
I recently came across the reports of the investigations into the deadly train accident that occurred in the last week of July this year in Spain. According to this reports, the driver of the train, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, was driving the train at over 190 km/hr in an area with a posted speed limit of 80 km/hr. He was also found to be talking with a friend on his cell phone seconds before the fatal crash. Lastly, in his distraction, he ignored three automatic warnings of over-speeding just two minutes before the train came to a treacherous bend and derailed, killing over 80 people and injuring scores of others.
I could not help but wonder, “If only he had been more disciplined. If only he had paid more attention to the posted speed limit. If only he had his mind focused on what he was doing and not talking on his cell phone while driving a train-full of people. If only he had paid attention to the automatic warnings and had slowed down in time, if only…” If only he had showed more discipline in his action, maybe he would not have to bear the guilt of being responsible for the worst train accident in Spain since 1972.
This tragedy reminded me of the disastrous consequences of indiscipline for both the undisciplined one and for others in society. A disciplined person is one who chooses to act according to right conduct always and everywhere simply because it is the right thing to do. The actions of the disciplined person are not determined by how easy or pleasurable the action is or by the rewards to be received or the punishments to be avoided or even by how the disciplined person feels. On the other hand, an undisciplined person is one who is bound to ignore right conduct at will especially when they are difficult or not pleasurable to him or just for the sake of it. Whether it is in the family, in the church, or in the society, we all feel comfortable with disciplined people around us and are wary of undisciplined people because we know that we are surely affected by the actions of both the disciplined and undisciplined. Who among us does not like a disciplined leader, personal doctor, parish priest, husband, wife, children, etc.? Who is comfortable with undisciplined people?
Today’s Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us not to “disdain the discipline of the Lord” because “whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” We should “endure our trials as discipline” because “God treats us as sons.” Why would our loving father discipline us with trials of all things? This is because it is in our trials and temptations that we show how genuine our obedience to God really is. Times of trials and temptations are opportunities to both show and learn discipline, to learn how to choose to obey God always and everywhere simply because it is the right thing to do. Though this discipline is not joyful but painful at the very beginning, “later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” This training through trials brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to the disciplined person and also blessings to others.
Jesus Christ is the truly disciplined Son of the Father, the one who always obeyed the Father in all times and in all places because, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Heb 5:8) Though Jesus is the true Son of the Father, though He was obedient to Mother Mary, St. Joseph, and to the Jewish leaders, it was through suffering that He learned obedience, being “obedient unto death, even death on the Cross.” (Phil 2:8) Jesus Christ learned obedience in the sense that He experienced obedience to its perfect degree (unto death) and He makes it possible for us to be as disciplined and obedient as He is. “Being made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” (Heb 5:9) We have hope of salvation only because Jesus Christ is the disciplined Son of God and He makes it possible for us to share in His disciplined life of loving obedience to the Father through the trials and sufferings of life. It is only in Jesus Christ that we have hope of doing the Father’s will always and everywhere simply because it is the right thing to do.
The Gospel shows us Jesus on His last journey to Jerusalem where He was going to give His life as a ransom for us. Being a disciplined Son, He will be as truly obedient to the Father in Gethsemane and Calvary as He was obedient on the glorious Mount of the Transfiguration. The truly disciplined Son of God answers the question about how many people will be saved by saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus Christ Himself and a participation in His own loving obedience to the Father obtained from disciplined “endurance of trials” is the narrow gate (Jn 14:6) that alone leads to salvation. It is not enough to be close to Him or to “eat and drink in His company” or to have Him “teach in our streets” but we must be willing to be disciplined too and to enter into His constant disciplined obedience to the Father, ready to be obedient in all things even to death. Jesus warns His hearers, unless they too become obedient and disciplined like He is, they would realize that the pain of earthly trials is nothing compared to the pain of missing out of the heavenly kingdom, the eternal “wailing and grinding of teeth.”
God desires to bring us into His heavenly kingdom as one united people more than we desire it ourselves. The Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading speaks of God’s desire to “come and gather the nations of every language to come and see His glory.” In Jesus Christ, God has come to bring us into His glory as one people from every nation. But for us to see the Father’s glory, the Father must see in us the same loving obedience that He saw in Jesus Christ, His truly disciplined Son. In Jesus Christ, we are now God’s children, and in Jesus Christ too, God also disciplines us in and through our earthly trials too so that we grow in our ability to do the right thing in all circumstances simply because it is the right thing to do and to bring hope to others. Being children of God is not enough; we must be disciplined children of God too.
A few days ago I received an email from a woman whose husband was critically ill and dying in hospital. She said that the nurses and doctors do not give him much hope to survive. Then she added, “But it is now in God’s hands. If He goes, or He survives, it is all in God’s hands. I know that God is at work.” It is easy to say, “It is in God’s hands” when things are going fine. But to say so when your husband is in his death pangs is a clear sign of the “fruitful peace of righteousness” experienced by those trained by discipline of God. She reminded me of our vocation to gain discipline from our trials. I was really edified by her words and I prayed that I would have the courage to abandon myself like she did to God in times of trials.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, trials and temptations will always come our way in this life. They are not signs that we have been abandoned or rejected by God. On the contrary, they are signs that Our Loving Father is treating us like beloved sons and daughters to effect in us an authentic disciplined freedom worthy of the heavenly kingdom and able to bring hope to others. There is no room in heaven for sworn enemies of God who disdain His own discipline because in heaven only the will and glory of God reigns.
Jesus unites Himself to us in this Eucharist to share with us His own disciplined and obedient love of God so that we endure our trials as discipline. Let us look to Mary, the Queen of Martyrs and beg of her the grace to be more disciplined in this life. It is no mere coincidence that she is also called Seat of Wisdom because she learned a lot from what she too suffered. She learned to be obedient with Christ and like Christ to the Fathers’ will in all circumstances of our life. With her prayers and sure support along with Christ’s abiding presence, let us show to each other that discipline that alone brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to us and gives hope to others. In this way, we avoid the tragic consequences of indiscipline to ourselves and to others.
Glory to Jesus!!!! Honor to Mary!!!!!