11 September 2006: Monday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time
1 Cor 5, 1-8; Luke 6, 6-11 Discipline
In Jewish literature, leaven stands for an evil influence. It was dough which had been kept over from a previous baking and which, in the keeping, had fermented. The Jews identified fermentation with putrefaction, and so leaven stood for a corrupting influence. Now, the bread used for the Passover feast was unleavened (Exodus 12). And on the day before Passover, a law has been laid down that a Jew must light a candle and searches his house ceremonially for leaven, and that every last bit must be cast out. It means that the last remnant of evil must be cleared out of our lives. Thus, St. Paul in the first reading tells us that if you let an evil influence into the Church, it can corrupt the whole society, as the leaven permeates the whole lump of dough.
There are two things I want to say. First, the young generation calls people who are like leaven, “BI” (meaning, bad influence). If a friend, for example, has taught someone to smoke, that friend is a BI. If someone in office has initiated a new employee into the system of graft and corruption, the person is a BI. In school, we become who are friends are because they influence our way of thinking, our actions and behavior. In the new TV hit, High School Musical, there are the nerds, the basketball team, the punks, etc. And if anyone differs from the mold, they are ostracized. An old adage has it, “Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.” Nothing illustrates this more than the influence of Osama bin Laden to terrorists.
Second, it tells us what discipline does. The second reading tells us of a sin that shocked Paul and the rest of the Christian community at Corinth. There was a man who had illicit sexual relations with his own step-mother. What shocked Paul was the attitude of the Corinthian church: they complacently accepted the situation and done nothing about it when they should be sad. And Paul said that he must be excommunicated. When a child is grounded for example, the person is literally “excommunicated”. That means he is prevented from doing the normal thing he or she does. When a person in school is suspended, he is prevented from participating in the normal thing that a student does in school. These are all ways and means in order to discipline a person who has to clear out the evil that he or she has. Therefore, when Paul “excommunicated” the man who has committed incest, Paul is not being vindictive. Discipline is thus carried out not to punish, but to awaken. It is not to break the person, but to make the person. Discipline therefore is carried out as a form of love and care. Thus, in the Gospel, when Jesus cured the man on the Sabbath, he tells us that beyond all our rituals, charity must have priority. The person takes primary importance over rituals.
Disciple has sometimes to be exercised for the sake of the Church. To shut our eyes to offenses is not always a kind thing to do; it may be damaging. A poison must be eliminated before it spreads; a weed must be plucked out before it pollutes the whole ground. A practice --- for example, the uncharitable disregard of the dignity of the lay minister here in UP --- should be removed before it influences the perception of people that God gives more grace if you receive communion from the priest than the lay minister. In truth, God gives the same grace to all --- whoever the person is. The Church has officially chosen lay people to be extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and if a person disregards it, then he or she disregards the Church.
Here we have a whole principle of discipline. Discipline should never be exercised for the satisfaction of the person who exercises it --- or else it would be power-tripping--- but always for the mending of the person who has sinned and for the sake of the Church. Discipline should never be vengeful; it must be curative and prophylactic.