4 February 2009. Wednesday of the 4th Week in Ordinary Time
Hebrews 12, 4-15; Psalm 103; Mark 6, 1-6
The first reading strikes me today. It tells us that the Lord disciplines us, like a father who disciplines his son.
My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, He disciplines; He scourges every son He acknowledges. Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as His sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline? 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.
The image is very familiar to us.
First, the phrase involves a memory of pain: every disciplinary act is hurting. Parents, teachers or our work company punish us in order to correct disobedience. It is a practice to train people to obey rules or a code of behavior. When we were kids, we got a beating in the buttocks when we ignored rules of ethics, such as refusing to do our responsibilities at home. We get reprimanded when we lie. We get a disciplinary action, such as being grounded or detention, when we did not fulfill school assignments or we were caught misbehaving. We get a suspension when we deliberately neglected our work, or we’re fired if we do not do our job satisfactorily. But, discipline is not only about reprimand or punishment. It is also about training ourselves physically and mentally such as the discipline needed in higher education or in developing stamina and strength, including the goal of having an admirable physique. Nevertheless, all disciplines involve pain. The child who is disciplined is hurt, as well as the parents who disciplines. Ask any parent: they would tell you how much they hesitate to rightfully carry out the punishment; many have been afraid to discipline their children.
Second, discipline is a means towards the life and character we desire. We become better in our relationship with others. We improve our manners, social skills, and our behavior at social gatherings and parties. We become knowledgeable about a subject because we have put in hours of hard work. We acquire a healthy body because of our regular exercise. Many excellent singers reached higher levels because they trained habitually.
Third, the discipline of God is given to us, not out of anger, selfishness or envy. God disciplines us for our good (Hebrews 12, 10): To get our attention to what is wrong and unacceptable human behavior or to get the most out of our lives. God disciplines us because He loves us; our parents discipline us out of love, thus for our good.
When our parents reprimand (often read as ‘hurting’ us), they never ceased from loving us — though sometimes their sense of reprimanding might be too harsh on us. But it doesn’t remove the fact that they do care about us. I will personally doubt that love, if I have never received any discipline. We can observe that with children who were tolerated of their childish behavior because their parents were not present in their developmental years, or their parents were too afraid to ‘hurt’ their children. We call these children, spoiled brats — they throw tantrums when the don’t get what they want. Unfortunately many of these are in college or are already in a relationship.
Finally, disciplinary action is given to the immature, the unproductive, the unethical and the uncouth. Disciplinary action is not given to a person who is already mentally and emotionally advanced, or possessing the developmental characteristic of an adult. The same thing with God. Our lives become miserable so that we get to be aware that there is an aspect worth noticing: a sinful pattern, an addiction, an unethical behavior, inappropriateness, or laziness especially in training. Once we have accepted God in our lives, it is but natural, that we get a ‘beating’ when our lives does not manifest the characteristic and the heart of a child of God.