DISCIPLINE MEANS LEARNING
“Who will be saved?” or “Who is better before God?” This question was asked by Jew of Jesus: expecting only Jews; all Jews or a “remnant” of Jews, but surely only Jews. This question asked once by some Catholics: response would be only they, the Catholics will be saved. When the question is asked by fundamentalists, Muslims fundamentalists exclude non-Muslims; and Christian fundamentalists: often say not Catholics, only their evangelical group. Jesus gives no answer to the question; he turns theoretical question into existential, real life challenge. He does not answer the question, how many will be saved?
Rather, he describes who will be saved. He talks about the “narrow gate” and “striving” to enter. He excludes as criterion race, nationality, language; even knowing the “master of the house”; and eating/drinking with him (even some Christians?) He criticizes “evil doers”; his question of how we live our lives.
We see a paradox is at the heart of the Scriptures today. On the one hand they envision the gathering of all peoples, “nations of every language” (Isaiah, first reading), “from the east and the west and from the north and the south” (gospel). But then the famous warning: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate” (gospel), echoed in the second reading from Hebrews: “Whom the Lord loves, he disciplines.” We see that the offer is open to all, but difficult to accept.
Faith is more than feeling good about God or having a friend in Jesus. Faith also involves what we do “discipline” of the “narrow door.” “Not those who say Lord, Lord… but those who do the will of the Father.” Salvation is not just by association with Jesus but through transformation by him. We must walk with him to Jerusalem, live the values he calls us to live, but we are not alone, he journeys with us with support and strength. Discipleship means to be faithful to the everyday “plodding” of life’s journey. Discipleship requires discipline consistent and faithful decisions and sometimes a training regimen, that is hard.
The disciple must be disciplined. “Disciple” and “discipline” from same root “learning.”The second reading’s discipline/trials/ is broader than punishment. In ordinary life, discipline is a system of training and development. There is a “narrow gate” of great musicians. Someone once said to Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a 20th century great pianist, composer and prime minister in Poland, “Sir, you are a genius.” He replied, “Madam, before I was a genius I was a drudge.” He continued: “If I missed practice one day, I noticed it; if I missed practice two days, the critics noticed it; if I missed three days, my family noticed it; if I missed four days, my audience noticed it.
We need discipline in school, work, arts, sports, diet, relationships, and spiritual life. Spiritual discipline is way of learning: through personal prayer, Church life, Eucharist (you were disciplined to come to Church); courage in of making decisions about right and wrong; the art of curbing selfish ego to develop true sense of freedom. “Endure your trials as ‘discipline,’ ” says our reading from Hebrews. Discipline is like the narrow door. Why should we think we can “drift” into the Kingdom of God? The Christian life is a constant striving to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it. We need to strive because there are forces of evil within us and around us, trying to pull us down.
Yours in Christ,