THE SAVING POWER OF DIVINE DISCIPLINE HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

Divine Discipline

Why are some people more successful in life than others? Some people may say it takes determination, others would talk about hard work, and still, others would mention thinking and acting outside the box. These are beautiful answers. However, Al Tomsik would say that success involves tons of discipline. What then, is discipline?

Discipline as a verb refers to the way of training people to observe some rules and codes of conduct. It could sometimes involve using punishment to correct someone, but that is not the goal. The purpose of discipline is to make someone to comply with rules and regulations which would potentially benefit the life of the individual.

Without discipline, life would be a harvest of chaos as it involves the right ordering of persons. Discipline could be self-dependant when it requires a conscious personal effort to live one’s life in compliance with some social and moral norms. In his First Letter to the Corinthians (9:27), St. Paul mentions that he disciplines his body to keep it under control.

Discipline could also come from parents and teachers. The Book of Proverbs (13:24), says that those who spare the rod hate their children, but those who love them are diligent to discipline them. St. Paul advises the fathers to bring up their children in the discipline and instructions of the Lord. Teachers and coaches apply discipline by making their students do what they don’t want to do to achieve what they want in life.

Divine Discipline at the Service of Salvation

At this point, our attention turns to divine discipline; in other words, the correction and training that comes from God. The Second Reading today (Hebrews 12:5-7,11-13) quoting the Book of Proverbs (3:11-12) tells us that we should not disdain the discipline of the Lord because He disciplines whom he loves. We encounter the same statement from the Books Revelation (3:19) where the Lord speaking in the first person says, “I reprove and discipline those whom I love. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.”

From the Lord’s statement above we begin to understand the saving power of divine discipline. Divine discipline refines us as raw gold gets refinement after passing through fire. The First Reading today (Isaiah 66: 18-21) tells us that God knows our works and our thoughts. Through God’s pervading knowledge and refinement, he sets apart some of us to come into His service as priests and Levites.

In the Gospel Reading (Luke 13:22-30), an unnamed person on our Lord’s route to Jerusalem asked if only a few people would be saved. Our Lord’s answer to this question has everything to do with discipline, “strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”  Why? To enter through a narrow gate would require that one repackages oneself; otherwise, the entrance would be difficult. Repackaging, in this sense, means openness to both self and divine discipline.

Moving Forward: The Disciplined shall Enter!  

A closer look at the later part of the Gospel shows that those who refrain from the needful divine discipline would not gain entrance into the heavenly banquet after the master of the house (the Lord) rises to lock the door. Here we notice that God gives us time to enter through the narrow gate; in fact, He sits and waits for us to repackage ourselves for entrance.

When the door closes, the narrative tells us that those who are excluded would knock and beg using familiarity with the Lord as an argument to gain entrance. Contrary to their expectation, the Lord would deny knowing them nor where they come from; in fact, he would even call them evildoers.

We learn from the Gospel passage today that those who would enter God’s abode would be those who strive to go through the route of discipline by entering through the narrow gate. Entrance through the narrow gate would entail humility because those who humbly themselves would be exalted (Matt. 23:12b).

Those times when you go through episodes of sickness, loss of a job, relationship breakdown, and other forms of afflictions could translate to your season of divine discipline. At those moments of disappointments, instability and weakness do not give up. Remember God’s consoling words to St. Paul at the prime of his session of divine discipline, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).

As we march into a new week, may we strive to be docile to the Lord’s discipline by walking with him wherever he leads us. The road and gate may be narrow, but the destination would be eternally comforting. Have a blessed Sunday and a glorious week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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