REFLECTION FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
REV. FR. BONIFACE NKEM ANUSIEM PH.D.
Many children today are so entitled that they may not understand what it means to receive discipline from parents and teachers for good. Many may not know about the home or school disciplinary measures like “naughty corner” or “time out,” which deter children from misbehavior and improve their attention to rules and regulations.
Back in the day, the sight of a cane spoke louder than verbal instructions, and compliance with rules and regulations was more seamless. Today, discipline seems to have disappeared from the lexicon of child upbringing as parents now take orders from their children, and everyone seems to be okay with that.
The scripture says, “Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24). By the way, the “cane or rod” could be symbolic as there are other ways of achieving discipline apart from the physical use of a cane.
Discipline is not Punishment
“Discipline” comes from the Latin “discipulus,” a pupil, student, or disciple. Therefore, it refers to anyone who is in training. So, discipline is an act of training to the end that the trainee (disciple) learns to conform to some specified patterns, rules, behaviors, or characteristics.
On the other hand, punishment entails inflicting injury on another person because of an offense. Unlike discipline, the purpose of punishment is to hinder or bring pain to the recipient and not to correct or train them to improve. Punishment is when we receive the negative consequences of our actions, while discipline is when we are fixed for falling short of our expectations to the end that we do better.
God Disciplines with Trials but with Love
The Second Reading of this Sunday (Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13) is a reference to a passage in the Book of Proverbs (3:11-12) that tells us not to despise the Lord’s discipline because He disciplines those He loves as a father would train a son in whom he delights.
One would be right to wonder how our caring and loving God would allow his children to go through some trials as proof of His love. Notice that a child cannot run until she learns to stand and walk, which involves a lot of rising and falling, which parents and caregivers want the child to develop fully.
Discipline involves trials which in turn train us. David raises a voice of praise, saying: “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle (Psalm 144:1). We know that training takes time and energy; we may even fall and get bruised in the process. But the good news is that we come out trained and built.
There is no Salvation without Discipline
In the Gospel Reading today (Luke 13:22-30), our Lord Jesus Christ advised someone who asked if only a few people would be saved to strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many would attempt to enter but would not be strong enough. Why? Because they did not receive enough training or discipline.
Notice that the gate is narrow, meaning whoever wishes to enter the gate must be of a size proportional to the narrow gate. In this situation, those who can enter are those who can follow and accept the discipline of the Lord, which comes through some of the trials that bring out the best in us.
Salvation is not an award for Christians but rather a reward for those who willfully submit themselves to the Lord’s discipline. We enter the school of discipline when we strive to know God better. The Book of Proverbs (12:1) tells us that whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he hates reproof is stupid. We also follow the Lord’s discipline when we disengage from sin (Isaiah 1:16, 18).
Moving Forward! Submit to God’s Discipline
In our world today, we have Christians who do not want to be like Christ. Recall that the Letter to the Hebrews (5:8) tells us that though Jesus was Son, he learned to obedience through suffering (discipline), and being made perfect, he became the source of salvation for all who obey him.
I do not know where you could be at this point in your life. Maybe what you are experiencing now is your journey through divine discipline. So, instead of complaining about your situation, be patient in your tribulations and constant in prayers (Romans 12:12). Remember that God disciplines those He loves, and the ultimate goal is you are be able to pass through the narrow gate.
God Bless you!