The Habit of Anger

“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” (Matthew 5:21-22).  Everyone here has experienced anger and is liable to judgment. We have experienced anger in so many times and places, with so many people, and with people we love. Maybe we think, “Well, it’s not like anyone has died,” but even as we think that, we know that real damage has occurred. And sadly the response of anger has become habitual for many of us. Continue reading

Living in the Light

In today’s first reading, believers are reminded to speak “as is fitting among holy ones” and warned with a list of items which are considered “out of place.” Instead we are admonished to speak words of thanksgiving.  This admonition about speaking “as is fitting among holy ones” follows one of the great passages from Ephesians that is not used in any weekday or Sunday liturgy. The verses speak to the role of anger in our lives – which seems to me the polar opposite of thanksgiving. Continue reading

The lap of fools

Our gospel today is the second half of the account of Jesus in his hometown. Last Sunday Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah promising there would come an anointed one filled with the Spirit who would heal, restore, set free, and declare a year acceptable to the Lord. Jesus proclaimed the Word and then simply told everyone. “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Talk about your “drop the mic” moment. Continue reading

God’s anger

The anger of the LORD blazes against his people, he stretches out his hand to strike them; The mountains quake, their corpses shall be like refuse in the streets. For all this, his anger is not turned back, his hand is still outstretched. (Isaiah 5:25)

Yikes! Dead bodies in the streets? That’s a lot of anger. In the passage above Isaiah is warning Israel that God’s judgment is coming. In fact, the entire chapter is one long indictment against the people of Israel. They’ve become corrupt and arrogant, and God has had enough. Invading armies are coming and the result will be death and ultimately exile.

God’s anger understandably makes us uncomfortable. In fact, God’s anger is one of the main reasons people state for not liking the God of the Bible. But if we take a closer look at scripture  about God’s anger, we will find a more complex and nuanced picture than we might assume.

Continue reading

Opponents but never enemies

During the school dances, the slow ballads would arrive and wooohooo! You got to slow dance… real close. The sisters would literally come over with a 12-inch ruler, but it between you and your dance partner, gently smile, and say “Leave room for the Holy Spirit.”

That is good advice in life, especially these days when something wicked this way comes. It is called anger and we Christians are specifically warned about it in the first reading from today’s Mass: “everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath, for the [anger] of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” (James 1:19–20). Continue reading


“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” (Matthew 5:21-22). Yikes!  What are we supposed to do with such dire warnings?  Where is the unconditional love we’d much rather hear about?  This sounds like it’s chock full of threats by a God that expected too much of us. I mean, come on, I haven’t murdered anyone! Sure, I have experienced anger at times and with even with people I love. But, hey, it happens. “It’s not like anyone has died!” Continue reading

To live in anger

I am not normally given to posting op-ed pieces from online sources. But there was an op-ed piece that caught my attention, more specifically, this:

….anger cannot be the sole fuel propelling us on life’s journey. We also need love, for without it, we are no better than those who fear us. To live with anger is to live powerless. That’s not to say the oppressed should never be angered by the actions of their oppressor. Only that anger can spark a movement, but it should not order its steps. Not if the goal of the movement is peace.

…not if the goal of the movement is peace… Continue reading

About just anger…

And well do you know, my excellent brother, how, in the midst of such offenses, we must watch lest hatred of any one gain a hold upon the heart, and so not only hinder us from praying to God with the door of our chamber closed, but also shut the door against God Himself; for hatred of another insidiously creeps upon us, while no one who is angry considers his anger to be unjust. For anger habitually cherished against any one becomes hatred, since the sweetness which is mingled with what appears to be righteous anger makes us detain it longer than we ought in the vessel, until the whole is soured, and the vessel itself is spoiled. Wherefore it is much better for us to forbear from anger, even when one has given us just occasion for it, than, beginning with what seems just anger against any one, to fall, through this occult tendency of passion, into hating him. (St. Augustine’s “Letter to Profuturus” (Letter 38))

But I say to you: anger

sermon-on-the-mountA Teaching About Anger. As will be evident, the following comments use Boring’s model (previous post) as a way to think about the text at hand.

21 “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment, and whoever says to his brother, ‘Raqa,’ will be answerable to the Sanhedrin, and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.23 Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you,24 leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.25 Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.26 Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny. Continue reading

Redemptive Anger

sermon-on-the-mountCommandments, rules, and laws – our readings offer a lot to think about. When I was 5 years old, I followed (mostly) the rule: “Don’t cross the street by yourself”, even as I wanted to explore the world across the road. When I was 25 years old, I understood that those rules were for my welfare, health, and protection.  There were also rules to shape me to be a good person: “You have to share your things with your friends.” Hopefully, when we are older we don’t think about those things, they are ingrained, and they are part of the good person we have become. Continue reading