This Week's Homily
7th Wk Ordinary Time, Year A:
Whoever is angry with his brother shall be liable to the judgment.
Even though our Lord said : learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart. It doesn’t mean that He was a weak. If anything, He would say things to shock His flock into opening their ears to hear His truth.
When the Pharisees heard the commandment, thou shall not kill, they assumed they were innocent. They had never taken a man’s life in murder. Sadly this false belief is even around today. How many people have the attitude that: I haven’t killed anyone, I am a good person, so I don’t need to go to confession. Our Lord warned us in the gospels that there are more ways than just murder to break the 5th commandment.
Anger is what we call a passion. Passion comes from the Latin word that means to suffer. Other passions are: love and hate, joy and sorrow, hope and despair. When we look at these passions, we can see that in a way we do suffer them. We don’t have control whether love or anger or joy first rises up in us. But we do have control over how we react to those passions and what we do with them. These passions are neither good nor bad. They are simple reactions that arise in us and are meant to move us toward good things and away from bad things. In the case of anger, it is there because in some situations, we need to be moved to action. When our Lord found His holy temple turned into a market place, he appropriately used His anger to drive out the money changers who were offending God. When we see an injustice for example, a weak man being beat up by a strong man, it is appropriate that we should be moved by anger, so that we would help the one in need.
The trouble with anger is that, thanks to original sin, it very easily gets out of control in us and becomes unjust anger. Be angry and sin not says Sacred Scripture. Just anger is never out of control, it never sweeps a man off his feet, it never leads to outrageous words or actions, it never leads to slander, calumny or detraction of others. Just anger is a controlled anger, moving us slightly and just enough to take the necessary action.
How can we know if we are justified in our anger? There is a simple rule to follow. It is that usually we are not. Thanks to original sin, usually what we think is just anger is really a desire to strike back. And get revenge on someone or something that has hurt us in some way. And this kind of anger is sinful. It is true that we are entitled to our good name, and to protect and defend it. But when we take an honest look at the thing that made us angry, the true harm to us is usually relatively small.
Bare ye one another’s burdens and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ, St. Paul reminds us. He also said : If also you suffer anything for justice’s sake, blessed are you.
Anger with our brother is a bad idea, anger with God is an even worst idea. Anger is one of the 7 deadly sins, which other more serious sins flow. Murder, quarrels, physical attacks, cursing, uncharitable speech, these are what St. Thomas Aquinas lists as the fruits of anger. St. Gregory gives us some others: thoughts and plans of revenge, disordered speech, and blasphemy against God.
We have a serious duty to control our anger. But how? First is remember the initial passion or feeling of anger that rises up as a reaction is not sinful, but when we entertain it and give in to the anger, then it becomes sinful. When we brood over it, let it fester and hold resentment and grudges. Anger can blind us to reality. It is critical to make countering actions of meekness, humility and patience to quell anger. It is important to not act on the initial flash of anger, unless of course someone is getting beaten to death. We need to leave the situation, try to not focus on the situation and pray, pray three hail Marys, or ten, or three hundred.
Remember that justified anger is rare. Look at the Gospel today, our Lord says: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father”. Remember, Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. The virtue of meekness is a Virtue which Moderates the Passion of Anger according to the Dictates of Reason, and Calms the Desire for Revenge says St. Thomas Aquinas. It restrains one from wanting to Inflict Injury for Injury. It enables one, relying on the Father's Will, to remain Tranquil in the face of Wrongs. Living in the spirit of Christ, Meekness inclines not to Revenge, but to Gentleness and Patience, to Pardon Personal Insults; and in Trials allowed by God's Providence – to have Patience and Resignation. It is an Indispensable Aid to Charity in bearing Wrongs Patiently, and avoiding Bitterness. As St. Paul tells us in Ephesians 4, we must be meek to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our soul.
Let us learn from the meekness of Christ who did not call out when being unjustly scourged by the soldiers and who did not complain when hanging on the cross.