Lent is a time to renew the practice or “art” of discipline — the crucial practice, it is better said — and there are many forms of it — many forms of discipline.
There is obedience. The Bible says “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22), making it so pertinent, as a sacrifice and discipline to Lent. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
We may have questions with, say, papal communications (as we recently pointed out), but when it comes to the Pope, and others above us in authority, we must always remain strictly obedient. The same is true with bishops and priests. Saint Padre Pio was obedient to and full of love for an archbishop despite that bishop’s scandalous life and persecution of the saint. “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority” (Hebrews 13:17). In this way too are spouses to remain obedient to each other.
In secular life, we are called to obey the laws not only because we can be fined or even jailed if we don’t, but because we also have a moral obligation to obey authority (except in extreme circumstances).
We must all be obedient to the truth — and all that is in the Bible. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). Obedience is the opposite of rebellion, the latter equated, in Scripture, with witchcraft.
There is also the discipline or “custody” of the senses. It is natural for humans to have certain inclinations — for example, wanting to overeat — but there are repercussions when there is no discipline. On the internet are endless lurid ads and photos as well as luxuries. It’s natural for the eye to be distracted, another if we willfully train our eyes on such a taunting item, and worst of all if we exercise lust or greed and hover over such a thing.
Take custody of the eyes. Take custody of the thoughts. Take custody of emotions: flying off the handle shows a: lack of discipline. Discipline, in many regards, is the key to happiness.
It takes discipline to pray. It takes discipline to work. It takes discipline to break bad habits.
Discipline is abstaining; more yet, it is fasting. It is declaring the spirit as predominant over the carnality. Discipline is “control gained by enforcing obedience,” says the dictionary, bringing us full circle.
To be disciplined is to be in control through Christ — Whose discipline was such that He could even go more than a month without food or water, where in our time days fasting has come to mean going without meat one day a week (which is actually abstinence; moreover, many love seafood).
This Lent, we can do better than that.
[Resources: Lenten books]