For I know their works and their thoughts, and I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory, and I will set a sign among them. From them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Put, and Lud—which draw the bow—to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away that have not heard of my fame or seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the nations. They shall bring all your kindred from all the nations as an offering to the Lord, on horses, and in chariots, and in litters, and on mules, and on dromedaries, to my holy mountain Jerusalem, says the Lord, just as the Israelites bring a grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord. And I will also take some of them as priests and as Levites, says the Lord.
Praise the Lord, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13
Brothers and sisters,
And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—
“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him;
for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.”
Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?
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.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”
When we read about how God disciplines his children, we have to admit that we must need the perfecting. Like little children, we think that we are perfectly fine the way we are. But we can be very self-centered, want to indulge our desires, misuse our gifts, and be foolish with our freedom. But we hate to admit it. Once we admit our imperfections, pride comes in to defend us. Rather than honestly admitting our sinful tendencies or our weakness, it is easier to say, “I am a good person. I don’t need to change. If people don’t like me that is their problem.” If we do admit that we can improve, pride still fights us. It says that we do not deserve our trials. Pride makes us discouraged. We say, “God is angry with me,” or even, “God hates me!” But if we understand that God knows us, and that he disciplines us, we don’t have to be afraid of the repentance that leads us to change, of the gift of difficulties that keep us from trusting in the world, the suffering that makes us more compassionate and less narcissistic. Discipline makes us strong. Our crosses make us strong.
We can’t call ourselves children of God if we stay at a distance from God, if our actions are the same as everyone else in the world, and if we do not let the word of God have its effect on us. We don’t enter the narrow gate by showing up for Mass on Sundays and receiving Holy Communion. The gate to life is narrow because we go through by being poor in spirit. We have peace with others and carry no vengeance or anger. We are single-hearted and have been separated from lustful and worldly cravings. We are meek and have died to our own ego gratification. We are not self-righteous but we hunger for justice. We have trust in God and no longer cling to self-pity or guilt. We do not burden ourselves with unforgiveness.
Once God has taught us and disciplined us, we look back and know that we are better off. We will be so grateful to have obeyed the Word and endured our crosses to be rid of the excesses that drag us down. Then, we are also able to encourage others who are yet to come to the Lord, knowing that even if they are last, the door is still open to them.