by Father Patrick Longalong
Aside from prayer, I often turn to play the piano to let out stress and frustration and clear my mind so I can see the issue objectively. My hands will just go up and down the keys effortlessly and subconsciously while releasing the tension out of my heart and mind. After a few minutes, I can think of the issue at hand and figure out ways to solve the problem that would be best for everyone involved.
I am not the best at piano playing nor a person that reached the level to perform at concerts. The reason behind this is because of my lack of discipline. I remember those days when I had to keep repeating pieces from a book by Charles-Louis Hanon. It was excruciating! I was almost going out of my mind with boredom. I wanted to skip ahead and play some Beethoven, Mozart or Chopin. But I had to be disciplined first. And my teacher always said that it had to come from the heart and not just banging on the keys.
This weekend’s readings have the common theme of discipline, especially the letter to the Hebrews. But what exactly is “discipline”? Many people I know, myself included, tend to step back when we hear that word. Somehow other words associated with this are “punishment” or “pain.” This is evident in the second reading, “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.”
Discipline is a very tricky issue to talk about in today’s culture. However, we should not focus too much on the method of discipline because that can vary in opinion based on the generation and ethnic background. We should define it instead as an active way of engaging a person to mold their moral character.
When we read the passage with an understanding mind, you will see that the letter talks about the failures of the lack of discipline and not the methodology itself. This is important for us because we are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ. As students (followers) of the Lord, we are expected to live out the knowledge and teachings that we have learned from the Master.
When we think about discipline in its broader sense, we begin to understand the true relationship that the Lord seeks with us. His teachings are a way to live the life that gives us access to greater freedom, the experience of love, peace, and joy. Often we refer to these in one word, Salvation. A life without sin.
Our faith and service to the Lord require discipline. This is the “narrow gate” that Jesus refers to in the Gospel. It is not simply enough to have good intentions, but the discipline is the proper execution of the good intentions to make it meaningful and life-giving. At first, it is not easy to do, but as we continue to “practice” what Jesus taught us, it will become part of us and will come naturally. We learn to improve and even acquire new skills on how to better serve our neighbor with love.
How active are we in showing love and respect consistently to the people around us? How disciplined am I in the practice of gratitude even in the smallest things in life? How disciplined am I in going the extra mile in service of others? In surrendering all our worries and anxieties to the Lord? The list can go on.
Jesus established His church to continue to provide that wisdom and instruction along with the sacraments to help us exercise our lived faith in a disciplined way. It is not enough to merely proclaim one’s self to be a pianist, going back to my earlier story, to play well. One has to have the discipline to acquire the skill to play a song. A song that is in tune with the rest of the musicians or singers (our community). A song that goes with the same rhythm as the conductor, the Divine Maestro, our Lord Jesus Christ.
Readings for the 21st Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 66: 18-21
Psalm 117: 1-2
Hebrews 12: 5-7, 11-13
Luke 13: 22-30
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.