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BEFORE THE CROSS | Strengthen and encourage one another in the disciplines of faith

What the world needs from Catholics is for us to live lives of discipline

What’s your discipline — the thing you plan on doing and count on doing every day?

For some people, it’s morning coffee and the news. For some, it’s waking up the kids, making their breakfast and lunch and getting them off to school. For some, it’s getting to work and checking e-mail. For some, it’s lunch with a friend or with a book. For some people, it’s an evening glass of wine, a phone call with a parent or a favorite TV show.

We all have such daily disciplines. We make them a priority; we count on them and find time for them in our day.

The question I want to ask is: how does faith enter our daily discipline? It can take a variety of forms, like prayer, study or service. But, in whatever form, is faith something we count on and make time for every day?

I ask this in part because we finish four weeks of readings from the Letter to the Hebrews this week, and the four weeks conclude with reflections on faith and discipline.

Let me be clear: I’m not telling anyone what their discipline should be! Each of us has to decide for ourselves what our days demand, and how to exercise our faith.

But I do want to point out that if faith isn’t any part of our discipline, then we are excluding God, by our own free choice, from being a regular part of our lives. And He will respect our choice — eternally.

This is probably the best way to read Dante’s reflection on hell in his classic work “The Inferno.” People often marvel at the creative punishments that Dante depicts. But all he’s showing, really, is the logical and eternal extension of what people chose during the course of their lives. The portrayal is creative, to be sure, but his point is simple: what people habitually choose — what they make their discipline in life — is what they will be given for all eternity. (The same is true for those in heaven.)

I also ask about discipline because I think a big part of what the world needs from us right now is lives of discipline. We’ve seen how some priests, bishops and cardinals lacked the discipline of faith. Quite simply, they weren’t following Jesus. Their bad example has done incredible harm and lost a lot of credibility for the Church. Repairing the harm and restoring the credibility won’t come from words. It will take lives of discipline that stretch across years and decades.

I’m grateful to those who have led lives of discipline. I encourage us all to ask: how can I make faith part of my daily discipline? Let’s strengthen and encourage one another in the disciplines of faith.

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