Chapters 5, 6 and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel are his recording of The Sermon on The Mount. At the beginning of Chapter 5, we have the familiar Beatitudes. Today’s Gospel from verses 20 to 26 of Chapter 5 is Jesus’ teaching about anger. This teaching is immediately preceded by Jesus’ saying that He has come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Then Jesus proceeds to expand on the Fifth Commandment saying “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…” In saying this, Jesus goes to the root beneath the prohibition of murder. That root is anger.
Surely, there is justifiable anger. Most of us experience it on some level from time to time. I believe that the point is not feeling angry but HOW one chooses to deal with one’s anger. And Jesus ties in dealing with anger inappropriately with the Fifth Commandment. He even says that one should not attempt to worship without making an effort to deal constructively with anger toward one’s brother or sister. Is Jesus saying that anger should be taken as seriously as murder?? I think so. Anger is like an acid. If it is not washed away, it slowly eats away. It can lead to hate and hate can lead to wanting to take revenge – wanting to ‘get even’ – bad mouthing the person one is angry with – killing their reputation – sabotaging the other person’s good efforts – in short murdering their spirit.
I know from my own experiences that it is not easy dealing with anger. It takes a lot of soul searching; facing a part of ourselves we would rather not look at; risking that our efforts at reconciliation might be rejected; and the ever-present nagging that I am/was right. I don’t think it is possible to confront our anger without help -- perhaps help from a friend or counselor and certainly help from above. I’d like conclude with a quote which I have found helpful and, in my opinion, worthy of some meditation. The quote is from Pastor Frederick Buchner’s book ‘Beyond Words.’
“To forgive somebody is to say one way or another,
“You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us.
Both my pride and my principles demand no less.
However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you have done,
and though we may both carry the scars for life,
I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.”
May our Gracious God bless us with generous and honest hearts as we go about the noble work of forgiveness.
…..Brother Gus Parlavechio, C.P.