- Matt 5:20-26
- Teaching about Anger
Bits & Pieces (May 27, 1993, p. 1) says something about anger like this: “A person who is angry on the right grounds, against the right persons, in the right manner, at the right moment, and for the right length of time deserves great praise.”
Anger is one of the capital sins. It is the disposition to harm and destroy others and it can manifest itself in various ways. Like for example, we might be angry at somebody that has hurt us unjustly.
Jesus in today’s gospel teaches us not to get angry. He is telling us that we have to forgive. If we hold grudges and fail to forgive, He teaches that we will become slaves of sin. But when the people turn the temple into a marketplace Jesus gets angry with them. When the scribes and Pharisees value the law of the Sabbath more than the crippled man in order to walk, He also gets angry with them. He even calls the scribes as brood of vipers. Even a lot of us believe that to feel angry is a sin. I heard so many of these during confession. You know, feeling something is never a sin in itself. How could this be? A feeling arises in us spontaneously. We cannot prevent ourselves from feeling angry, jealous, bored, lustful, proud or depressed. These feelings come and go, and we cannot make them go away through a sheer act of will. Jesus understands this perfectly well.
The anger the Lord talks about in today’s gospel is not the feeling of anger because we have no control over it. It is not the kind of anger that He has with the people in the temple, with the scribes and Pharisees and others. But He is talking about the forbidden anger we have with our brother or sister. It is because this selfish anger nourishes a grudge and keeps wrath warm that refuses to die. An anger that is nourished, nurtured, enlarged, developed through the years. He prohibits acting out this anger in an inappropriate way.
And so what is the antidote to this kind of anger? The antidote is mercy, kindness and forgiveness that spring from a heart full of love and forgiveness. We must be forgiving and merciful because God has forgiven us. He calls us to extend mercy and forgiveness towards those who cause us harm and grief.
Bishop Soc Villegas in his homily book, Love Like Jesus (p. 36-37), also suggested responses to this kind of anger. He suggested the following responses:
First is Communication. If there is resentment, if there is ‘sama ng loob” or hurt feelings and if there is resistance in your heart, you must talk. Talk about your feelings with those concerned. Build bridges and not walls.
Second is Compromise. It is not to compromise with evil. It is rather to look for meeting points, to look for halfway points where one party can give away and the other can give way and people can meet halfway, without compromising morality and commandments. There are some things that we can give up. There are some things that we must keep absolutely but we must learn to give way.
Third is Contemplation. When we have met halfway, let us look at the same direction and pray.
Do we harbor any anger towards another person? And are we quick to be reconciled with him/her in order to restore good relationships?