6th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Well, judging by Facebook and about a billion conversations, this seems like a good time to talk about anger.
Anger is a strange and complicated thing. Often, people will confess in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that they were angry and I suggest to them that it is not a sin. Anger is an emotion, a spontaneous reaction, often justifiable. Trust me, when the Mets blow a four run year in the ninth inning I am not “choosing” to be angry. My strongest theological argument is that it certainly appears that Jesus was angry at times. I wasn’t there, but I don’t think he would say things like “You hypocrites!” or “You brood of vipers!” in a lilting and comforting voice.
On the other hand, there is this challenge from the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ’You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” What kind of anger grows into sinfulness? I think it turns darker when it controls our vision of the world; when it grows like a tumor to block out hope, peace and reconciliation. It makes us liable for judgment when we no longer possess anger, but anger possesses us.
A good analogy might be with our anger with God. Of course we can be angry with God and as long as we have felt pain or utter confusion, I am sure that we have known the feeling. I think that one of the most beautiful things about our God is that God can absorb our anger and love us no less for it. Instead, our anger at God has the ability to be converted by God’s constant love for us into forgiveness and mercy. But what if that anger for God is nurtured too long or too exclusively? What if God just became simply the repository for our anger? Then we would not be able to witness God’s blessings or acknowledge God in thanksgiving. Then would have our anger blotted out the light. Our relationship with God would be toxic.
For Jesus, it all comes down to relationship. Anger is related to murder because it is the motive. Anger is related to murder, for when we have closed our minds off and cut off that person from our lives, they become dead for us. And Jesus never ceased reaching out to everyone. So words like “You fool” or “Raqa” (which means imbecile) are cut off words endangering the existence of the relationship. They are murderous words for without dialogue, healing is impossible and the death of the relationship is inevitable.
Look at how much Jesus values relationship. He says, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Notice, it is not even a question if you are angry, but if your sister or brother is. We cannot be made whole, we cannot even present our offerings at the altar unless we are in right relationship with all.
After all, who has ever changed the minds because of name calling? Has anyone ever called you an imbecile and you thought, “Oh yeah, I forgot I am an imbecile. You must be right.” However, by respecting the other, by listening and being open to the other, the possibility of empathy, understanding and reconciliation appear. Anger gives way to insight and hatred gives way to peace.
So let us never grow too easy or comfortable in our anger. Let us not see anger as our right without letting it be a launching pad to being made whole. Let us extend ourselves in understanding. Let us be peacemakers and children of God. Next week: part two!