“Discipline” is the word that stands out in the readings for today’s mass. We hear from the letter to the Hebrews: “Endure your trials as ‘discipline’; God treats you as his sons.” This word for discipline (paideuó) is translated in a variety of ways throughout the New Testament. Pilate uses it twice during Jesus’s passion to refer to a physical ordeal of punishment: “I will therefore chastise [paideuó] him and release him” (Luke 23:16, 22). The next time this word appears is in the Acts of the Apostles, when St. Stephen reminds the Jewish council that “Moses was instructed [paideuó] in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Several chapters later, St. Paul uses this same word and meaning when he explains to his fellow Jews that he was “educated [paideuó] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers” (Acts 22:3). “Discipline” now takes on a new dimension; it can mean not simply chastisement, but also education and maturity through wisdom. But a third aspect of this word appears when Paul later urges St. Timothy to gently “correct” (paideuó) his opponents. Now this word for “discipline” can mean physical chastisement, wise education, and gentle correction. And all of these qualities can be found in any good and loving parent.
Many of us know what it’s like to suffer, to endure difficulties, to struggle through this world’s “vale of tears.” But how many of us accept our trials as the gifts of a loving Father for his children? Venerable Fulton Sheen used to lament what he called “wasted suffering” because so many of us forget that God uses suffering for salvation. Just look at the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the ultimate suffering became the ultimate source of eternal life.
Pope Benedict XVI explained this value of suffering in his address on Good Friday in 2009: “It is for love of us that Christ dies on the cross! Throughout the course of the millennia, a great multitude of men and women have been drawn deeply into this mystery and they have followed him, making in their turn, like him and with his help, a gift to others of their own lives. They are the saints and the martyrs, many of whom remain unknown to us. Even in our own time, how many people, in the silence of their daily lives, unite their sufferings with those of the Crucified One and become apostles of a true spiritual and social renewal!”
Today’s reading encourages us to endure our trials because they are the disciplines of God treating us as his children. So we should not shun this word “discipline,” but embrace it as a gift from our Heavenly Father. Discipline is an opportunity for us to learn, for us to grow, and for us to be drawn closer to Christ in deeper intimacy the more we unite our suffering to his own for the salvation of souls.