A loving parent tries to teach their children the right way to live, and correct them if they are following the wrong path. In the first reading today, we see a God who is not happy with the way his people have been living. God sees his children not listening to his voice and following the dictates of their own hearts. God knows what is best for us, and he says in Jeremiah that if only we would listen to his voice, we would prosper.
Like any loving parent, when we go astray, God disciplines us. The Hebrews passage recognises that God’s discipline can be painful, but over time it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been disciplined.
Perhaps we can understand God’s discipline working in our lives over time, helping us to grow? Maybe from this perspective, God’s discipline can be seen not as a punishment, but as a work of love, which is aimed at helping us become the people he meant us to be.
We can see this kind of love in action, over years of patient work, when we look at the Hale Telescope, located on Palomar Mountain in southern California. Built in the 1930s and with a 5.1 metre mirror, it was the biggest telescope in the world until the early 1990s. What is amazing about this telescope is that the mirror took 14 years to cast and polish to perfection.
Like the opticians working on the Hale Telescope, so God’s discipline works on us, patiently and over many years to bring his work to perfection. This discipline, far from being a punishment, is a labour of love. God is still busy with his creation, bringing it to perfection. Like the opticians working on their mirror, God makes smooth our rough edges. When he is finished with us we are able to reflect light in our lives. Not the light from the stars, but the light that comes from God and his righteousness. In this way, the mercy of God is his constant care and discipline, bringing us to wholeness.