“My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines;” (Proverbs 3:11-12)
For those of us living in the Western world the idea of going without certain comforts may appear to be unnecessary. It seems as if anything we want we can attain, and that personal advancement, including fulfilling our goals and desires is something often owed to us for hard work and a little bit of perseverance.
Amidst the noise and consumer driven reality surrounding us it is seemingly easier to neglect the life of the soul. The spiritual life is something that belongs to “the disillusioned”. Why would one ever want to subscribe to some belief system that “robs them of their freedom and happiness; a system of rules and responsibilities”?
Today’s first reading from the book of Hebrews boldly proclaims the discipline belonging to those in pursuit of Christ and the path of virtue. Quite often the spiritual life can be dismissed as some disillusioned fairy tale filled with fluff and nice ideals, something for the weak. The life of a Christian is not a Sunday walk in the park but rightfully a call to heroic discipline and an intensity of spirit that is everything but something left to the weak and the disillusioned.
Due to the comforts of our society we are more inclined to toil for the reality we can see rather than prepare ourselves for the invisible reality that Christ has promised us.
We are surrounded by a generation of entitlement. As an educator I witnessed this reality in my classroom on many occasions. It seems respect and accountability are rarities, and that rules are mere suggestions implemented for protocol opposed to anything that should be obeyed. It is quite alarming. Lack of discipline surely leads to chaos and only feeds entitlement all the more. There can be no authentic personal advancement and growth without a bit of toil and discipline.
To perceive the Christian faith as a system of rules to be obeyed, without being made aware of the loving God who has our best interests in mind limits our understanding immensely. This passage from the book of Hebrews that the Church focuses on today draws a beautiful parallel between the discipline of God and that of a loving parent; a loving Father.
Though I did not grow up with a traditionally Catholic upbringing, as the daughter of an Italian hardworking father discipline was something enforced within our home regularly. It was not pleasant to adhere to the many rules or expectations. At the time, I recall resenting my dad for being so intense and demanding, perhaps even a little unrealistic. In the ignorance of my youth I would rather do whatever I wanted and go wherever I pleased. Eventually I entered the world of competitive soccer, this spirit of discipline proved to be fruitful. The same pattern of my resenting the discipline emerged again. Perhaps it is natural for us to shun that which stretches us beyond ourselves. On a larger scale in a varsity soccer setting the idea of discipline and balance was even more crucial. This was probably the first time that I began to see some fruitfulness of the discipline enforced by my father throughout my childhood. In hindsight I could see that my father’s emphasis on reasonable discipline was an act of love and not disdain—fulfilling what has been proclaimed to us “At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it”. It would take much time before I reconciled myself to living my faith in the same way.
By the grace of God I was brought to the point of recognizing that all of the appearances of comfort and happiness of the world was empty. Through maturing I was faced with the unavoidable reality of God’s call to obedience as a means of true joy and authentic fulfilment.
I could see the danger and deception in being groomed by worldly ideals and a spirit of comfort. I am reminded of the words from Pope Benedict “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” The cost of greatness is sacrifice and discipline enforced by a divine love both an unconditional love of God for us and our own unwavering love of God. “Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines”.