Eighth Sunday After Pentecost-A Life Of Discipline
The New Testament places great emphasis on the discipline of our bodily members-especially of the ear, the eye and the tongue. In Romans 8:13, part of our epistle readings for today, Paul says that we cannot enjoy spiritual life if we do not mortify the deeds of the body through the guidance and direction of the Spirit. Listens to what he says:
For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.
In 1 Corinthians 9:27, he tells us how severely he disciplined his own body. He says:
But I chastise my body, I discipline my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway, or disqualified.
A young, pastor of Dundee, Scotland, who flamed out for God at the age of 29, giving himself to the work of God as very few clergy do, said before he died, “The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness.” He understood that the effectiveness of ones priestly and pastoral ministry, depends in large measure upon ones personal godliness. We who are called to the priesthood must see ourselves as a chosen instrument in the hand of a sovereign God, a Priest who must be a pure instrument. And by the way, that goes for every Lay person who identifies themselves as Christian.
This young pastor said to other pastors in his day, “How diligently the Military officer keeps his saber clean and sharp. Every stain he rubs off with the greatest care. Remember, you are God’s sword, His instrument. In great measure, according to the purity and perfection of the instrument will be its success.” He then added, “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” He saw that the power of his ministry depended upon the purity of his life. Onetime he prayed, “Lord, make me as holy as a pardoned sinner can be.”
As a priest your whole usefulness depends on this. This must be our prayer and this must be our passion. Down through the centuries, we have had saints who have been the greatest preachers. Saints like Alphonsus, John Vianney, John Eudes, John Bosco, and Dominic who have understood that the power of their ministry has been largely measured by the purity of their lives.
A priest may fill his pews, he may fill the communion rail, and do a great social work in the community, but what that priest is, on his knees, in secret before God Almighty, is what he is and no more. In other words, no one who is called to the religious life can advance beyond his or her own personal devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Another clergy said:
“It will be in vain for me to stock my library, or organize societies, or project schemes, if I neglect the culture of myself. For books and agencies, and systems, are only remotely the instruments of my holy calling, my own spirit, soul, and body, are my nearest machinery for sacred service; my spiritual faculties and my inner life, are my battle axe and weapons of war.”
This is precisely what the apostle Paul prioritized with Timothy, his young son in the faith, when he wrote, “exercise, train, discipline thyself unto godliness.” (1 Timothy 4:7).
I have spent some time here preaching about the importance of discipline in those who have been called to a spiritual vocation in life. But don't think that the layman, either married or single, can live a life that is not undisciplined. You may not be called to a spiritual vocation but your are called to a consecrated vocation. One, as in the readings for today says, who “mortifies the deeds of the flesh.” One who, “chastises their body, disciplines their body, and brings it into subjection lest they become a castaway or disqualified” in the Christian life.
No matter what experience of sanctification we may have had, we still need to discipline our bodily members, as Paul did, till the end of our lives, if we are to be holy.
We must be disciplined about the kind of conversation we give our ears to. We cannot afford to spend our time listening to gossip and slander and then expect our ears to be attuned to hear God's Voice.
Our eyes need to be disciplined in what they are permitted to look at and read-especially in these days. More than one Adult or teenager has fallen into immorality because they did not habitually control their eyes. How many more are continually falling in their thought-life, because of being undisciplined in this area. "Turn away my eyes that they may not behold vanity," Psalms 119:37, should be our constant prayer.
Our tongues also need to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps there is no greater spreader of spiritual death in the Christian Church than the human tongue. When Isaiah saw God's Holiness, he was convicted especially of the way he had been using his tongue. Apparently he had not realized this until he saw himself in God's light.
Jeremiah was told by the Lord that he could be God's mouthpiece only if he was careful about the way he used his tongue-if he separated the valueless from the precious in his conversation.
These prophets could not afford to be careless about the way they used their tongues, or they would have forfeited the privilege of being God's spokesmen. They could not indulge in loose conversation, idle chatter, gossip, slander and criticism and get away with it. They would have lost their calling thereby. This could be one reason why we have a hard time finding good priest in our day.
If God has ever put His Word on our lips, then a solemn obligation is upon us to guard these lips for His service alone. We cannot offer a member of our bodies for His use one day and the next day take it back for use at our own discretion. Whatever is once presented to Him is eternally His.
As in the physiology of the body, a doctor can often assess our state of health by looking at our tongues, so too in the spiritual realm, James tells us in chapter 1:26, that if anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. He also was bold to say, And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
If you find that you have not been disciplined in your life concerning your purity, your speech, or in any other area of your life.
Start by being disciplined in going to confession. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity.” (I John 1:9)
Be disciplined in spending time in His written word. “Thy words have I hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against thee.” (Psalms 119:11)
Be disciplined in your prayer life. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18) Learn to be disciplined in prayer by praying your rosary every day. Learn to be disciplined in praying from the heart in your own words. Learn to be disciplined in having a heart and mind always in tuned with the Spirit of God. In other words, Praying ALWAYS with ALL prayer.
For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you MORTIFY the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. Romans 8:13
But I CHASTICE my body, I DISCIPLINE my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway, or disqualified. I Corinthians 9:27