Matthew 5:21-26: Teaching about Anger
Carl Heinrich Bloch: The Sermon on the Mount
April 18, 2015
A Favorite from August 10, 2009.
Anger is a universal, human emotion which each of us handles in our particular way. In today’s citation we hear Jesus tell us how important it is that we learn to identify our anger, to name its origin and to manage its effects immediately and completely. Verse 24 tells us that nothing engendering anger may be allowed to take root and live in us; nothing can be allowed to separate us from God.
From Julian of Norwich in ALL WILL BE WELL: “In his merciful way, our good Lord always leads us as long as we inhabit this impermanent life. I saw no anger other than humanity’s, and God forgives us that, for anger is no more than perverse opposition to peace and love. It arises from a lack of strength, or wisdom, or goodness. And this failure lies in ourselves rather than in God. Our sin and desperation generate in us a wrath and a continual opposition to peace and love”.
The best antidote to anger is mercy, Julian tells us, for “the ground of mercy is love, and the ministry of mercy is to preserve us in love. For mercy works in love, with generosity, compassion, and sweetness. And mercy labors within us, preserving us, and conveying everything to the good”.
In his sermon on the mount, Christ tells us: Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Jesus understands well how the entry of a third party into a conflict can either quell or stir the flames of anger. A quiet mediator who empowers those in conflict to listen to one another is invaluable. An person outside the conflict who delights in adding to that roiling emotions that often accompany a rift nearly always spell death for the relationship. It is for this reason that Jesus urges us to seek settlement before appearing before a judge. Not all third parties have the best interests of those in conflict in their hearts.
Julian concludes her comments with a thought about the effects of anger and a possible sure: “Our failure is frightful, our falling inglorious, our dying wretched. Yet never does love’s compassionate eye turn from us, nor does the operation of mercy cease”.
Mercy and goodness when applied to anger bring about change that transforms. When carrying our gift of self back to God, we must first put anger away. We must first seek and give mercy. We must remember that our travels here are temporary and that the next world, where there is no place for anger to fester and take over, is permanent and eternal. This anger we experience here must be left behind. We must convert it to compassion . . . for in so doing, we enter into Christ’s love and body.
Julian of Norwich. ALL WILL BE WELL. Ave Maria Press, 1995, 2008. Print.
Tomorrow, Jesus’ teaching about adultery.