Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Exodus 20:1-17; Psalm 19:8-11; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25)
Being Angry toward Injustice without Sinning
“He made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple area.” (John 2:15)
Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was angry. But just a little more than a week ago, we read how Jesus told us not to get angry. So, did Jesus commit a sin here? Did he lose his temper? Or is there a place for anger?
Maybe St. Paul can help out here. “Be angry,” he wrote, “but do not sin” (Ephesians 4:26). So there is a type of anger that isn’t sinful. In fact, there are times when anger is the only appropriate response. For instance, we have the right to be angry at sins like abortion, racism, sexual abuse, or child trafficking. But at the same time, and no matter how offensive these sins are, we are not justified in sinning ourselves. It comes down to our motivations. As St. Thomas Aquinas taught: “He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral.” Why? Because “anger looks to the good of justice.”
So anger toward injustice is not sinful; it’s even appropriate! It simply needs to be controlled by reason and compassion. Expressions of anger are acceptable if they arise from a desire to restore justice and order—for instance if we are trying to reprove sin or set things right in our family. We just have to be careful not to let our anger overpower us or overshadow the call to love and forgive.
In Jesus’ case, his anger was in response to the unjust way the people were treating the Temple. It was a controlled anger also, for immediately afterward, he continued his ministry of preaching and teaching with calmness, conviction, and clarity.
It’s okay to get angry—so long as we are vigilant and can keep our emotions in good control. So if you find yourself about to get angry, try your best to link your reaction to good reason, love, and humility. And once you have said your piece, make sure to resolve the situation by restoring love and trust if at all possible.
“Jesus, teach me how to be angry without sinning.”
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In today’s first reading we find the story of God’s covenant with his people getting clearer and more specific in the now familiar story of the Ten Commandments? Unfortunately, they may be so clear and specific that we can fall into the danger of relying solely on our legal observance of these and other Church laws for salvation, rather than our faith in Christ. We can also fall into the danger of relying solely on our own strength to observe God’s commandments and Church laws, rather than from the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. How can you make your observance of them to be more in the spirit rather than just in the letter of the law? What steps can you take to increase your reliance on the Holy Spirit as you try to live out your day as a Christian man?
- Psalm 19 says the law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, right, clear, pure, true, more precious than gold, and sweeter than syrup. Do you believe that God reveals these laws and his truth to his people through prayer, Scripture, and the Church? Why or why not? Why is it dangerous to our walk of faith to substitute our judgments and preferences for God’s laws and truths, especially if they are at odds with certain areas of our lives?
- The second reading reminds us how easy it is to seek signs and miracles, rather than trusting in the love and faithfulness of God and his promises to us. Why are signs and miracles insufficient in and of themselves to bring about a living faith and hope in the Lord?
- St. Paul also challenges us with these words: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God stronger than human strength.” What do you believe these words mean? What steps can you take to increase your reliance on Jesus Christ and decrease your reliance on just your own strength?
- In the Gospel reading, these words of Scripture are applied to Jesus, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” What can you do to increase your own zeal for the things of God and God’s people?
- The meditation challenges us with these words from Ephesians 4:26: “Be angry but do not sin.” What do you believe this means? How can you apply this Scripture to your own life?
- Take some time now to pray and ask the Lord for the grace to keep your emotions in good control, especially anger. Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.