HOMILY Twenty First Sunday in Ordinary Time August 25,2019
In our second reading today we hear, from the Letter to the Hebrews, this statement: “God treats you as sons.” Do you like that statement?
There is a problem with this, and it is the implication of gender. When the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of “sons” it is really talking about what we today would call “children”, because it includes both males and females. You get this in the first line of our reading where the Letter states: “You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children.” This exhortation is not about gender, but about our being children of God, all of us.
The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates this passage from the Letter to the Hebrews thus: “God is training you like children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” This is not the exact words in the Letter, but it is more faithful to the idea of what is being communicated.
So, this passage applies to all, regardless of gender.
With that out of the way, let’s look at what the Letter to the Hebrews is telling us.
It says: “Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?”
So parents, do you discipline your children? I hope so. A child who is not disciplined, or not adequately disciplined, we called “spoiled”. They grow up not reaching their potential. They don’t have the self-discipline necessary to achieve their potential or to contribute fully to society.
Disciplining is not easy. It has to be consistent. It has to be appropriate to the particular child. As the oldest of six I believe that what worked for me would not necessarily work for my brothers or sisters. Each child is different and has different needs. Some need clear structure or they feel lost. Others would feel smothered by that much structure. I believe that disciplining children is more of an art than it is a science.
In any case, the Letter to the Hebrews teaches us that our trials are a form of discipline. Even that they are a sign of God’s care for us. “God is training you like children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?”
Now of course we are not happy about this disciplining. As the Letter states: “Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
And we want to avoid what is painful and unpleasant. However, growth requires effort and pain.
We are called to be disciples. Disciples are people who are disciplined. People who not only want to follow Jesus, but people who have developed the strength, the self-control, the endurance and discipline to follow Jesus when it is difficult, when the road is long, when it is unpopular, when it is tough.
Fortunately, the Holy Spirit strengthens and sustains us. Inspiring and helping us when it is hard to speak the truth, when we want to be stingy rather than generous, when we want to take the easy path and follow the crowd rather than be a true disciple, and follow Jesus.
In the Gospel today Jesus instructs us, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”
Only if we are disciplined, if we are true disciples, will we be strong enough to be able enter through the narrow gate.
Trials will come if we invite them or not. The Letter to the Hebrews gives us good advice on dealing with them.
“Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?” …
“So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.”
God bless. AMEN.