The sacred writer of this letter has some strong words to say about discipline.
”… 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/daughter He acknowledges … 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.”
We live in a permissive society that is ego-centered. The emphasis is on getting more and on doing what feels good. The moral law is considered relative left to individual interpretation. The Christian life; however, demands discipline. There are the Ten Commandments and all that flows from them. There is the Sermon on the Mount and it’s daily implementation. There is Jesus’ call of discipleship to take up one’s cross and follow Him – each day. Discipline is required to live out one’s Baptismal commitment. The discipline that Jesus asks of us is not a restrictive one but a discipline that gives us freedom to tap our potential and become the persons that God knows we can be.
The Psalms are among the oldest writings of the Bible. They are powerful writings expressing the depth of human emotions. They touch on gratitude, praise, joy, sorrow, grief, exhilaration, anger, rejection – all the major emotions that humans experience. They rise from the regions of the heart. Their popularity has remained over the centuries because they speak to us. They reflect our own experiences.
I often find myself praying one of the Psalms. Sometimes, I create my own psalms spontaneously as I go about my day. I am enjoying a few days at the Jersey shore. This morning found me walking along the ocean waiting for the sun to rise. My heart filled with gratitude as I quietly sang to myself:
- Praise God in His glorious Creation!
- Praise God in His wonderful deeds!
- Praise God who set in motion this vast Universe!
- Praise God who created Mother Earth!
- Praise God who blessed us with Ocean Wonders!
- Praise God who populated our world with incredible life forms!
- Praise God who surprises us each morning with the rising sun!
- Praise God who has gifted me with godly friends who embrace me with the mantle of hospitality!
- Praise God today and always!
- Amen! Amen! Amen!
Which commandment in the law is the greatest – this question is posed to Jesus by a scholar of the law (Matthew 22:34-40). Jesus replies: ”You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.” Jesus could have stopped right there, and He would have been correct, but He did not. Jesus continued, “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Jesus weds the two commandments. They become as one. It is impossible to love God and to hate one’s neighbor. In hating one’s neighbor, one rejects God. And it is not possible to love one’s neighbor and reject God. One’s neighbor, like oneself, is a beloved child of God made in God’s image and likeness.
Two things are important to remember:
- Jesus defines neighbor as every single human being – no exceptions.
- Love is a conscious choice that one makes for the good of the neighbor. One does not necessarily have to like the neighbor or approve of the neighbor’s actions; however, one has to pray for one’s neighbor and for his/her well-being.
In our narrow world view, the rich, the powerful, the glamorous, the gifted, the brilliant, the talented, etc., are those we tend to look up to, admire and seek to emulate. Consciously or unconsciously, we see them as “the chosen.” But that is not necessarily how God sees it.
Today’s first reading, Judges 6:11-24a, tells us the story of the calling of Gideon to defeat the enemies of the Israelites. The Midians were set out to destroy God’s people. They were stronger than the Israelites. The Israelites were in disarray. The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O Champion!” God was sending Gideon to crush the enemy. Gideon was very much in touch with himself and said, “…I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.” God, of course, knew this but God was making a point: God sees differently than we do. God often chooses the seemingly insignificant to accomplish His Will. That was the case with Gideon. It is also the case with us. God chooses us to collaborate with Him in the salvation of humankind. God knows how weak we are. We find our strength in Him by surrendering ourselves to Him and allowing Him to work in us.
I perked up at a religious service this morning as I heard the preacher speak about the healing value of good laughter – not a put-on laughter but a genuine laughter rising up from deep inside a person. Genuine laughter is essential for one’s mental health; one’s physical health and one’s spiritual health.
Years ago, I added the following prayer to my favorites (don’t remember where I found it!):
How good it is to laugh and to share laughter with others. We thank you, God, for the ability to laugh, for giving us a way to show our delight with life and with all the diverse expressions of life. Sometimes laughter is a personal response to something we are feeling or seeing. At other times, laughter is a union of joy we share with others. Amazingly, God, we require no other reason for laughter than the pure joy of expressing gladness. Thank you, God, for the gift of healing laughter. Amen!