Discipline is not my favourite word. It conjures up images of restriction, the limiting of behaviours and the creation of a narrow lifestyle. But then I read in that ‘encouraging text ‘in the Book of Hebrews, ‘When the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; do not get discouraged’.
Yes, God’s discipline is a unique process. Contrary to most human conditioning, it prepares us to open up – to shed the restrictions that limit our thoughts and behaviour.
We see this type of freeing discipline in the other readings for today.
One of Isaiah’s major tasks was to get the former Babylonian captives to return, after 50 years in exile, to their own land and country. Seems the majority wanted to stay in Babylon. I don’t blame them. Jerusalem was a heap of ruins. Why spend time and energy re-building a city, when they would be better off staying put and caring for their own well-being?
If only they could have realised that their return and the re-building of Jerusalem was part of God’s plan for the whole world – a plan that involved breaking through their limited world view to include all peoples.’ I come to gather nations of every language’. But for that to happen, the Gentiles must have a special place to come to: Jerusalem. The ‘Yahweh-disciplined’ were the only ones who could move outside their narrow mentality and make that decision.
The Jesus in Luke’s Gospel works out of the same frame of mind when he encourages his followers to ‘enter through the narrow gate’. Ironically, that ‘narrow gate’ is the gate of broad-mindedness.
We see that when someone asks Jesus about the number of people who will be saved. Jesus answers with a statement about the kind of people who will be saved. Seems a lot of the ‘good people’ are going to be on the outside, looking in at the people they thought never had a hope of salvation. ‘People will come from the east, west, north and south and will recline at table in the Kingdom of God’.
Jesus stresses not to be deceiving ourselves with false security. It is not enough to belong to the people of Israel; it is not enough to have personally met Jesus on the roads of Galilee. What matters is coming into the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness from now on.
Perhaps the best way to discipline ourselves according to God’s method is to constantly remind ourselves of Jesus’ last statement in today’s gospel reading,
‘Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last’.