Endure your trials as discipline; God treats you as his sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain,
yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.
When the American bishops accepted the revised edition of the New American Bible they retained the controversial language of sons, men, he and him in deference to an ancient tradition. We find the presence of Jesus on every page of the Old and New Testaments. The psalms especially describe his suffering, death and resurrection as they describe the travails of Israel. If the translation were rendered gender-neutral these prophecies of Jesus would disappear. Only Hebrew- and Greek-reading scholars would notice him.
So when we read, "God treats you as sons" and "What son is there whom the father does not discipline?" we should immediately remember the passion and death of Jesus. Although the Author of Hebrews refers to the universal experience of the father who sternly disciplines his son, he is intensely aware of the "discipline" Jesus suffered as "he learned obedience through what he suffered."
As he is the Son of God, so are we daughters and sons of God. This intimate relationship with Jesus should magnify our sense of privilege as we experience the hardships peculiar to being Christian. Saint Luke celebrated that privilege when he recalled that Peter and John "left the Sanhedrin delighted that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name."
However, the hardship we have endured for the sake of the Name has been colored by a peculiar circumstance. Catholics throughout the world, clergy and lay, have been humiliated by the clerical abuse scandal, a story that keeps expanding and refuses to die. We might imagine the privilege of enduring persecution because our ethical standards and moral behavior are superior to our contemporaries. That nuisance might be an entitlement readily borne. But this particular embarrassment was not supposed to happen. We had not bargained for that, had not expected it, and could not foresee it. It seems unfair and unjust.
The Lord assigns crosses to us; we don't get to choose them. This scandal, we can agree, should not happen! But neither should the crucifixion of Jesus. Both are as real as history, they don't go away because they should not be. "There it is." the Lord says, "Deal with it."
Perhaps our suffering is made worse by a theory of history that said, "We're beyond all that. The hardships of the past don't happen anymore. In the democracies that will prevail in every nation, Christians and Catholics will never suffer persecution!"
There is nothing inevitable about progress, freedom or democracy. That should be more apparent today. We do not know what will happen; we could not have expected this.
But we take up the crosses that are laid upon our shoulders and we carry them with the dignity of the Holy Spirit. That Spirit carried Jesus through his ordeal; it remains with us.