So common are the words disciple and discipline that it may come as a bit of surprise that they are related. They share the same Latin root, discere, meaning to learn. Today’s second reading from the letter to the Hebrews tells us, Do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by Him. Many of us have had children of our own and know full well the need for discipline in raising and teaching them. Each of us began life as a child and knows the pain of discipline. It is how our parents taught us and prepared us for life in the grown-up world. It is how we learned right from wrong, good from bad, proper from improper. This learning, or discipline, never really ends. As children of God we are constantly learning what God really desires of us. We never stop learning of His Love, Mercy and Omnipotence. We never cease to be amazed at His Wisdom in how He answers our prayers. As disciples, we continually learn and grow.
Today’s excerpt from the letter to the Hebrews echoes well the words and admonition of Christ: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.” If we are to be disciples, followers of the one true Master, we must constantly be learning. There is One Way, One Truth and One Life—it is Jesus Christ. God’s ways are above our ways and we cannot completely know Him. That is why a disciple never stops learning and why discipline is a constant way of life—a constant battle against the forces of evil.
Jesus knows well our weaknesses. He knows well that we are unable to enter through the narrow gate on our own. “I tell you, many will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” The strength we need comes from discipline. We constantly learn from Christ what His Way truly is. We fail but then pick ourselves up and keep learning, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us: strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed. This is the way of discipleship, following and learning from Christ.