Cycle C – Homily – 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time – 21 August 2022
Also called the 11th Sunday after Pentecost
Lectionary I Lectionary II
Isaiah 66:18-21 Isaiah 58:9b-14 with Psalm 103:1-8
Psalm 117:1-2 Jeremiah 1:4-10 with Psalm 71:1-6
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 Hebrews 12:18-29
Luke 13:22-30 Luke 13:10-17
Have you gone over today's readings yet? Either Lectionary – or both. We could do all of today’s readings but, for now let’s just concentrate on the Lectionary I readings. It would be a good spiritual exercise this week to go through the rest of the readings and apply the concept of personal discipline (discussed below) to all of the ideas we are presented with today.
Wow! What a string of seemingly disjointed passages we are faced with! Isaiah talks about gathering the nations of every language and how they shall all come and see the Lord's glory. The Psalm admonishes us to go out and tell the Good News. Hebrews talks about discipline and about our being disciplined by God. And, finally, Luke countermands those who want to know if only a few will be saved. Each of these readings seems to have a distinct message and it seems to be almost impossible to find a common thread to sew these thoughts together. Instead of focusing on the myriad of ideas which jump out at us in these readings, let us concentrate for a moment on the message found in Hebrews.
"Discipline" is one of those strange words that has several meanings. We all know of at least two of those meanings and we all know that these meanings, while related, are not interchangeable. At the same time, we all like to use the word discipline in ways that do not reflect the teachings of Christ.
We tend to want to dwell on the punishment aspect of discipline.
As we read this passage from Hebrews, we think of discipline as the corrections and reproves of a parent or a teacher. In some ways, this passage is not overly loving. At the same time, we see that the scriptural author does explain that when enacted, discipline may cause pain instead of joy, although, in the long run, the one being disciplined discovers the "peaceful fruit of righteousness" that results from the discipline.
Although physical admonishment and physical constraint may sometimes be a part of discipline, it is not in keeping with the Good News message to dwell on these physical aspects of discipline. Nor is it in keeping with the Good News to think of discipline in terms of punishment. Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is a training or a direction. Discipline is a focus. Discipline is a meaning. Discipline is a way of doing certain tasks.
Let us think of the concept of an academic discipline. Someone's discipline may be chemistry or mathematics or French or any of countless other intellectual pursuits. Or on a practical level, a discipline may be a profession such as carpentry or woodworking or farming. Each of these disciplines is a training, a focus, a meaning, a way of doing specified actions. The discipline is the learning process and it is always an ongoing process.
How can we put all of this together and show how it relates to our relationship with God? We need to concentrate on our discipline from God as a learning process. We need to think of that discipline as a way for us to grow in the way God wants us to grow. That does not mean punishment; that means training and learning. Yes, sometimes the discipline is difficult and sometimes we think of the discipline as pain. But, is it? The discipline God has for each of us is not the vengeful spite of a wrathful God; it is rather the fine tuning of the talents a kind and loving God has already given us. We learn to use our discipline. We learn the process and the focus as we become more and more adept in what we have been called to do.
Each of us has his or her own discipline. This is our individual personal discipline. Each of us has the calling to an individual perfection and that calling must be polished. As the discipline is developed and polished, we become more and more of what our God calls us to be.
Suddenly the readings all seem unified! From Isaiah we learn we will come to see the glory of the Lord. That is part of the development of discipline – our individual disciplines! From the Psalm we see that we are to go out and proclaim the Good News. Part of that Good News is that we have our talent and our discipline – our individual calling – and we are to use that to go out and proclaim this Good News. This applies to everyone.
And finally, if we look at Luke, we see Jesus being asked the selfish question about how few will be saved. Jesus Socratically admonishes the questioners by presenting them with a conundrum. And in the end we see that Jesus means that we must follow what God has called us to do. Our discipline comes back to us; our individual talents and abilities have been identified by God and we learn that this is what each of us is to do. No back doors. Just the straight-forward task of being ourselves and developing what God has given us. Our discipline – our individual disciplines – are what we are called to do for the front door to the kingdom of God that is being opened to us. Discipline – polished – is our call for God and from God.
And, as suggested at the beginning of this homily, it would be good this week to go through all of the possible readings selected for today and examine how the message of each of these readings can be applied to our own personal spiritual discipline and how that application can bring us closer to our God.
Dr Roberta M Meehan, D.Min