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Thursday, August 25, 2016

This week's Reflection from Fr. Bob Warren: The Narrow Door (Luke 13:22-30)

Franciscan Friars
Franciscan Friars
The Narrow Door
(Luke 13:22-30)
Discipline is a bad word. None of us really like it. It conjures up something arduous and painful. To choose a life of discipline is to choose a narrow way.
An athlete chooses the way of discipline at least in the physical realm. It is a narrow way of toning muscles and reflexes, of timing and precision. Every worthwhile realm of endeavor has its particular discipline. The great pianist, Arthur Rubinstein once said if he failed to practice one day, he knew it; two days, the critics knew it and three days... the audience knew it. He set for himself exacting standards. He stayed on top only by constantly honing his art, his expertise, his discipline.
Then there is the life of complete freedom of doing what you want, when you want. This has strong appeal to most of us. We like to be unencumbered and able at a moment's notice to answer a whim. There are people of whom we demand personal discipline—the airline pilot, for example. We want him to follow the narrow way of careful adherence to all rules of safety and have detailed knowledge of how to fly the plane.
Who among us would let our body be operated on by a surgeon who had graduated from a short, quick and easy correspondence school of surgery? We want someone who went to the best medical school, top of his class. We want someone who has submitted to the discipline of becoming a skilled surgeon, someone who has taken the narrow path.
What does all this have to do with being a Christian? Well, Jesus did not invite people to an easy life which seeks only its own satisfaction. He did not preach a gospel of easy religion which makes no demands and gives no responsibilities. Rather, he proposed that life, in its fullest, demands discipline. In the gospel, Jesus is quoted as saying that many people find the easy way. But the pathway to abundant life is through the narrow way of discipline. Being disciples of Jesus is not a talking game. It is not an armchair spectator sport. It is something you have to participate in and work at. It is not enough to simply hold good thoughts, to wish people fed, and to hope for reconciliation of family and friends. We must practice the narrow way of the discipline which will make it happen. It takes work to be a real Christian. You cannot just lay back and let it happen. For Christians, the memory most exhilarating and most painful is the memory of the birth and death of Christ. Exhilarating because God was born and died for us. Painful because it makes demands on us that would change our lives.
As the early Church writers tell us, God became human to make us divine, to give us a share in God's own life, to make it possible for us to believe what is beyond belief, to hope against hope, to love as Jesus loved. Perhaps most of us would benefit from a little conversion or tune-up, where I do the minimum. I do just what I have to do to avoid serious sin. Am I embarrassed about being a Christian? Apologetic about being a Catholic? Tell friends it is not as bad as they think.
To be a disciple of Christ takes discipline and commitment. It is a risk. If we risk in committing ourselves to Christ, we cannot see. We risk, perhaps, more in committing ourselves to a church we can see. For this is a pilgrim church, a community on the way, not yet there, a body of sinful men and women, at times in startling contradiction to the Lord who heads it, the Spirit who gives it life. Its outward face is often spotted and wrinkled, and still it is Christ's church, His community. Here is where He expects us to experience Him. He expects us to not only endure it, but to love it, to take it for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death.
Scripture tells us to be a disciple of Christ. You have to lose your life in order to find it. I do not know what life it is that Christ is asking you to surrender. What it is that is keeping you from a closer union with Him. I do know there are special moments, critical moments in every life where to be a Christian, you have to choose... commit yourself... risk.
Discipline, commit, risk, these are hard words. What is our reward? What do we get out of it? Well, it is probably best summed up by a splendid Pope, Leo the Great. He said in a Christmas sermon, "Christians recognize your dignity. God became what you are. A God man died for you. God lives in you, that you might live in Him."
If He loves you that much, you must be quite extraordinary, very special. Recognize your dignity. Simply be what you are. Saints live like saints, Christ bearers act like Christ. The Church does not need Easter or Christmas only Christians, but everyday Good Friday Christians whose daily dying with Christ is a rising with Him to New Life. Dare to be saints. Dare to be another Christ.
Fr. Robert Warren
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Robert Warren Signature
Fr. Robert Warren, S.A.
Spiritual Director
Franciscan Friars
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