When we talk about discipline, the impression that most of us have is punishment and pain. This is just a limited view of discipline. There is a wider and richer perspective that should interest us as a people destined to achieve so much in life and indeed ultimately in God. Sometimes, you may be imagining or wondering why we make resolutions, promises and commitments but we fail in fulfilling them. Again, sometimes we project a very strong will to become closer to God in prayer, good works, accomplishment of a task, actualisation of some goals but they remain unfulfilled or even moribund. There seems to be a missing link I guess? What have you to say about concepts like asceticism, penance, mortification, self-denial, self-control, fasting, chastisement, renunciation and voluntary poverty? These concepts are projectors of discipline. As far as my memory can serve me well, today, these practices or concepts may be dying away. Yet, austerity and self-mastery has always been part of the Christian life, and even common-place among many religious orders throughout the history of Christianity and the Church. It is pertinent to say that many religious orders before the twenty-first century were founded on some special disciplines that were translated as charisms and apostolates. What is discipline? It is a training of the mind and heart to actualise self-mastery or self-control over our lifestyle (Gal. 5:23). A disciplined person’s life is very easy to define. It is characterised by simple but necessary rules or principles, and driven by values. The rule is this, If you fail to control the self, then the self will control you.
From the days of the prophets of the Old Testament to the New Testament Apostles, Martyrs, and Saints like Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa of Calcutta, there has been a practice of austerity as a form of discipline in order to attain self-mastery. Something is definitely certain about our spiritual life! It is geared towards the attainment of goals. It is not a life lived and led in a vacuum. Hence, Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should last’” (John 15:16). There is so much to do in life and bear plenty of fruits. However, we are seemingly stagnated and we keep retrogressing instead of progressing. We keep serving our minds instead of our minds to serve us. This is where the virtue of discipline is needed. We need to long for it and if we had it before but due to the cravings of hedonism and relativism as sponsored by modernism, we have unknowingly thrown it away, then there is need to rediscover it. For instance, Jesus Christ couldn’t have made it to the Cross, if not for the spirit and sense of discipline! Will power cannot function without discipline. Addiction to sin, work, gambling, sex, money, power and so on cannot be arrested without discipline. Discipline forms a habit(s). Discipline will empower the mind to think, feel and act positively for positive results. Without discipline, you will remain a subject of your mind instead of you being the master of your mind. The secret of the military and other pools of command like the police and other security agencies is discipline. Note, you are a soldier of Christ (2Tim. 2:3) and you need to cultivate the sense and spirit of discipline. Begin today from little things like rising early, watching TV sparingly, fixing your clothes and your room, punctual in keeping appointments, planning your day and work, fulfilling your resolutions and promises.
The Word of God on discipline: Gen. 39:8-12, 2Sam. 11:11-13, Pro. 12:1, Matt. 5:3-11, 29, Matt. 16:24-26, 1Cor. 9:27, Heb.12:5-11.
Assignment for the week: Become a self-disciplined warrior. Learn to rise early and pray. Raise your standards of physical fitness. Increase your strength of positive thinking and do away with worries. Control your diet. Shun evils of procrastination, laziness and sloth. Watch the enemy of discipline – inconsistency. Build a mental toughness. Exercise daily. Make a commitment today that will alter the course of your life. Give yourself a golden gift of peace of mind. Blessings!
Fr. John-Mary Atep