The Joy of Discipline

I recently came across the reports of the investigations into the deadly train accident that occurred in the last week of July this year in Spain. According to this reports, the driver of the train, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, was driving the train at over 190 km/hr in an area with a posted speed limit of 80 km/hr. He was also found to be talking with a friend on his cell phone seconds before the fatal crash. Lastly, in his distraction, he ignored three automatic warnings of over-speeding just two minutes before the train came to a treacherous bend and derailed, killing over 80 people and injuring scores of others.

I could not help but wonder, “If only he had been more disciplined. If only he had paid more attention to the posted speed limit. If only he had his mind focused on what he was doing and not talking on his cell phone while driving a train-full of people. If only he had paid attention to the automatic warnings and had slowed down in time, if only…” If only he had showed more discipline in his action, maybe he would not have to bear the guilt of being responsible for the worst train accident in Spain since 1972.

This tragedy reminded me of the disastrous consequences of indiscipline for both the undisciplined one and for others in society. A disciplined person is one who chooses to act according to right conduct always and everywhere simply because it is the right thing to do. The actions of the disciplined person are not determined by how easy or pleasurable the action is or by the rewards to be received or the punishments to be avoided or even by how the disciplined person feels. On the other hand, an undisciplined person is one who is bound to ignore right conduct at will especially when they are difficult or not pleasurable to him or just for the sake of it. Whether it is in the family, in the church, or in the society, we all feel comfortable with disciplined people around us and are wary of undisciplined people because we know that we are surely affected by the actions of both the disciplined and undisciplined. Who among us does not like a disciplined leader, personal doctor, parish priest, husband, wife, children, etc.? Who is comfortable with undisciplined people?

running 2Yesterday’s Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us not to “disdain the discipline of the Lord” because “whom the Lord loves He disciplines.” We should “endure our trials as discipline” because “God treats us as sons.” Why would our loving father discipline us with trials of all things? This is because it is in our trials and temptations that we show how genuine our obedience to God really is. Times of trials and temptations are opportunities to both show and learn discipline, to learn how to choose to obey God always and everywhere simply because it is the right thing to do. Though this discipline is not joyful but painful at the very beginning, “later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.” This training through trials brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to the disciplined person and also blessings to others.

Jesus Christ is the truly disciplined Son of the Father, the one who always obeyed the Father in all times and in all places because, “Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered.” (Heb 5:8) Though Jesus is the true Son of the Father, though He was obedient to Mother Mary, St. Joseph, and to the Jewish leaders, it was through suffering that He learned obedience, being “obedient unto death, even death on the Cross.” (Phil 2:8) Jesus Christ learned obedience in the sense that He experienced obedience to its perfect degree (unto death) and He makes it possible for us to be as disciplined and obedient as He is. “Being made perfect He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.” (Heb 5:9)  We have hope of salvation only because Jesus Christ is the disciplined Son of God and He makes it possible for us to share in His disciplined life of loving obedience to the Father through the trials and sufferings of life. It is only in Jesus Christ that we have hope of doing the Father’s will always and everywhere simply because it is the right thing to do.

The Gospel shows us Jesus on His last journey to Jerusalem where He was going to give His life as a ransom for us. Being a disciplined Son, He will be as truly obedient to the Father in Gethsemane and Calvary as He was obedient on the glorious Mount of the Transfiguration. The truly disciplined Son of God answers the question about how many people will be saved by saying, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” Jesus Christ Himself and a participation in His own loving obedience to the Father obtained from disciplined “endurance of trials” is the narrow gate (Jn 14:6) that alone leads to salvation. It is not enough to be close to Him or to “eat and drink in His company” or to have Him “teach in our streets” but we must be willing to be disciplined too and to enter into His constant disciplined obedience to the Father, ready to be obedient in all things even to death. Jesus warns His hearers, unless they too become obedient and disciplined like He is, they would realize that the pain of earthly trials is nothing compared to the pain of missing out of the heavenly kingdom, the eternal “wailing and grinding of teeth.”  

God desires to bring us into His heavenly kingdom as one united people more than we desire it ourselves. The Prophet Isaiah in the First Reading speaks of God’s desire to “come and gather the nations of every language to come and see His glory.” In Jesus Christ, God has come to bring us into His glory as one people from every nation. But for us to see the Father’s glory, the Father must see in us the same loving obedience that He saw in Jesus Christ, His truly disciplined Son. In Jesus Christ, we are now God’s children, and in Jesus Christ too, God also disciplines us in and through our earthly trials too so that we grow in our ability to do the right thing in all circumstances simply because it is the right thing to do and to bring hope to others. Being children of God is not enough; we must be disciplined children of God too.

A few days ago I received an email from a woman whose husband was critically ill and dying in hospital. She said that the nurses and doctors do not give him much hope to survive. Then she added, “But it is now in God’s hands. If He goes, or He survives, it is all in God’s hands. I know that God is at work.” It is easy to say, “It is in God’s hands” when things are going fine. But to say so when your husband is in his death pangs is a clear sign of the “fruitful peace of righteousness” experienced by those trained by discipline of God. She reminded me of our vocation to gain discipline from our trials. I was really edified by her words and I prayed that I would have the courage to abandon myself like she did to God in times of trials.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, trials and temptations will always come our way in this life. They are not signs that we have been abandoned or rejected by God. On the contrary, they are signs that Our Loving Father is treating us like beloved sons and daughters to effect in us an authentic disciplined freedom worthy of the heavenly kingdom and able to bring hope to others. There is no room in heaven for sworn enemies of God who disdain His own discipline because in heaven only the will and glory of God reigns.

Jesus unites Himself to us in this Eucharist to share with us His own disciplined and obedient love of God so that we endure our trials as discipline. Let us look to Mary, the Queen of Martyrs and beg of her the grace to be more disciplined in this life. It is no mere coincidence that she is also called Seat of Wisdom because she learned a lot from what she too suffered. She learned to be obedient with Christ and like Christ to the Fathers’ will in all circumstances of our life. With her prayers and sure support along with Christ’s abiding presence, let us show to each other that discipline that alone brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to us and gives hope to others. In this way, we avoid the tragic consequences of indiscipline to ourselves and to others.

Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!

 

image: credit: shutterstock

Fr. Nnamdi Moneme, OMV

By

Fr. Nnamdi Moneme OMV is a Roman Catholic Priest of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary currently on missionary assignment in the Philippines. He serves in the Congregations' Retreat Ministry and in the House of Formation for novices and theologians in Antipolo, Philippines. He blogs at  www.toquenchhisthirst.wordpress.com.

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  • grace

    This article was spot on correct and I am glad you shared it. Trials are painful but we do need to recognize Gods grace and anointing during them. Discipline has been treated as a bad thing in schools to the point where you can not make a child do a time out because it is “humiliating to the child”. Everything has to be positive as not to destroy self image and self confidence ect. I am not suggesting discipline be harsh and mean but we have gone way off the deep end on this.

  • Blobee

    Oh wow! This is a keeper! I LOVE this article. This teaching is the bridge between what goes on in our everyday life and what goes on in our spiritual life with our faith in God. The practical everyday practice of our religion, the trials of doing the right thing when it feels horrible and everyone thinks you are wrong, the making and keeping of a commitment when the difficulty and doubts of it make you want to chuck the whole thing, following the commandments and feeling it cut you to the very core by doing so; all of this is the discipline spoken of here. Thank you so, so much Fr. Moneme. You have really hit the nail on the head with this teaching about how to live our lives. God bless you!

  • Timothy Johnson

    Very well written article

  • Lou

    Awesome article! It hits HOME and is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit. God Bless You!

  • petitefleur921

    Thank you so very much Father. This is a wonderfully inspirational article that helps us to see how in the smallest acts of daily life we can strive to discipline ourselves as Christ does. I will save this and read again and again. Blessings to you, Susan

  • Kasey Dougge

    I hate to introduce a note of negativity into the mix, but your example of acceptance of divine will is skewed. It is one thing to accept divine will when it pertains to the death of another, even a much loved spouse; quite another when it pertains to one’s own death. Having had a stressful, though optimistic, struggle with cancer, I can tell you that I have yet to meet anyone who calmly accepts the imminent possibility of death. I think the portrayal of acceptance of divine will as a calm reaction to a terminal, or serious health issue, places a lot of guilt on most patients who react with fear at the diagnoses. Let us not forget that Jesus himself reacted with fear and begged for release from his death. He did eventually accept his fate, but it was not an easy process. If the son of God, as true man had such a hard time, I think we need to be more realistic when discussing the acceptance of divine will.

  • BostonCatholicMom

    What you described in your article is perfectly in sync with what’s going on in my life right now. Discipline is something I need to reflect on today. Thank you for writing this article so that it was there for me to read.

  • Mancipium Mariae

    Sorry to hear about your struggle with cancer. I will surely pray for you. Thanks also for the observation which I do not consider negative but relevant to the article’s point. The example cited was to stress that in difficult moments, whether it has to do with facing our own death, or the death of loved ones, or any suffering at all, there is an experiential learning that takes place about ourselves and God, about ourselves as creatures and God as Creator. there is a sense of discipline that is called for and exhibited, an obedience even when it is hard and painful to us. Yes, Jesus reacted with fear but still maintained His attitude of loving obedience to the Father, learning the cost of obedience in and through those painful moments. Please this is the sense of discipline that I had in mind. Discipline does not mean a lack of fear or any emotional response but it is rooted in the fact that one is resolved to do the good in good or bad moments simply because it is the right thing to do. Death scares us all, myself included. But I pray that our own obedience to God in good and bad times prepares us for the final act of obedience that death brings to us. I hope that this clarifies your observation. God bless you.

  • Barrysullivan1

    I remember the old priest in the movie “Rudy” telling him the following: “There are two things I have learned in life: 1) There is a God, and 2) I’m not it.” This rather simplistic statement has served me well when I have encountered sickness, death, or other tragedies in my own life or counseled others who have experienced hardship. This does not mean that I do not have emotions when these things occur. On the contrary I realize God has given me another day and He wants me to use it to bring everyone I encounter to Him. I believe how we handle adversity is the greatest tool we have to convert others or help believers increase their faith and love for God and give their life meaning.

  • jenny

    “…God treats us as sons…” is an excerpt from above.
    How would men like to “…be treated as daughters…?”

  • Dominic

    Salamat Po Padre, it also shows discipline that you can accept to go over to the Philippines when some other missionaries would prefer to go over to the more developed so called countries to seek comfort. We actually need discipline in our thoughts. actions, speech, commitments, prayer life, vocations and relationships. Knowing where the boundaries exist and appreciating our Creator. Look into the Old Testament, and see what indiscipline caused a lot of great leaders who began well and ended poorly ( Kings David & Solomon make good reference points) and how their indiscretions and so many others have caused our world today to become perverse and rife with the practices that are incomprehensible. They started well and ended poorly. Discipline gives us the ability to seek for the Grace of God to continue the journey and it also connects us with Christ through the Eucharist (food for the journey)

    I like what Grace said below, discipline has been treated as a bad thing and I really things high time we all stop compromising and speak up, the tragedies especially in the USA when some selfish individual decides to take scores of lives because he wanted to prove a point shows that some time in that persons life there was no one to instill the sense of discipline and direction. The recent tragic event in Syria becomes a clear cut example of how the whole world has lost its sense of discipline. The UN and other related Agency’s had to wait till all those innocent souls were killed before they remembered that imposing sanctions to I quote ” discipline” the Syrian Government. I want to conclude with something I experienced from the recently concluded World Youth Day @ Rio de Janerio Brazil, the Gay Movements et al in Sao Paolo were enraged with what was happening in Rio to the extent they smashed crucifixes and statues of our BVM, a critical response of Discipline gone awry/amok. Fr I pray for you and your mission as you remember us back home in Nigeria. Pray for our World that has lost it’s sense of Discipline we marvel about scientific discoveries and technological advancements but are oblivious to how families are broken apart. How can we raise children in a world where same sex marriages have become the top of the news agenda when we have a lot of hungry people. When to be successful you have to watch Entertainment & Style and worship How to best sellers. I have to stop for a comment should not become an epistle thank you for this brilliant piece.

    Dalu, kao de chi.

  • Kasey Dougge

    Thank you for the kind words. This post has helped me better understand the article.

  • Mancipium Mariae

    You are welcome Kasey. God bless you.

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