Deacon Jerry Franzen - Cathedral 3/8/2014
Exodus 20:1-17 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 John 2: 13-25
That reading certainly reminds us about the human side of Jesus.
By his own admission,
Jesus said that He didn’t need anyone to testify
about His human nature; He understood it well.
He was angry, or was He?
I had been taught that anger is a sin,
one of the “deadly” sins, one that can lead to many other sins.
Anger can lead to abuse, both verbal and physical of self or others.
It can lead to blasphemy, a lashing out at God.
Angry outbursts can result in the destruction of property.
Anger can be the source of despair, murder and even suicide.
All of those items resulting from anger are sinful acts.
Anger is certainly something that we must seek to control.
But is anger always a sin?
Our present understanding of anger
goes beyond our labeling it as a deadly sin.
Anger begins as a purely human emotion, a passion,
a response to real or imagined evil or difficulty
having been perpetrated on us or someone else.
A person’s reputation has been ruined by the release of information
that should have been held in confidence. He’s angry.
A friend was fired from a job for no apparent reason. She’s angry.
A father of five is struggling to make ends meet,
and his wife must have surgery.
Life is unfair. He’s angry.
Your house is severely damaged in a flood. God is unfair.
When we feel helpless in the face of adversity,
our natural human tendency is to want to react in desperation
and that tendency is good.
The immediate emotional response of a tendency to react
is the emotion we call anger.
As a purely human emotion or passion, anger is good.
We certainly do want to be able to recognize the evil or the difficulty
that faces us and be able to react to it.
St. Thomas Aquinas said that a passion of the sensitive appetite
is good in so far as it is regulated by reason,
whereas it is evil if IT sets or controls the order of reason.
Anger is a human emotion that God has given each of us.
We must remember that Jesus was fully human;
so, he experienced this emotion.
It was a part of his human nature which he understood very well. Yes, Jesus was angry about the way the money changers
were treating the people who were coming to the temple.
BUT, don’t think for a minute
that this is another one of these
“Nothing is a sin anymore” talks.
Sin is a frequent result of anger.
If the conscious mode of action resulting from our anger
is to do wrong, that is the sin.
Remember St. Thomas said that a passion could be evil,
if it was allowed to control our reason.
Seeking vengeance is the main sinful result of anger.
A married person whose spouse has been unfaithful
often seeks vengeance in hatred,
in physical abuse or by being unfaithful themselves.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not kill (or injure another.) Retaliation is a sin.
Your parents have grounded you;
You decide to steal money from them in return.
You shall not steal. Retaliation is a sin.
Your girlfriend dumps you;
so you start spreading nasty rumors about her.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Retaliation is a sin.
But, the way we act as a result of this emotion need not be evil.
Anger can be channeled to lead to something good.
I have a short story from the realm of fiction to illustrate that point.
It’s about a story about a swami and a snake,
a snake that routinely bit people who infringed on its territory.
The swami charmed the snake
and commanded it to not bite any more people.
Without this defense, the snake found itself almost helpless.
People stepped on it, kicked it, swung it around by the tail.
Bruised and bleeding, the snake complained to the swami.
The swami said, “I told you to stop biting people’
I didn’t say that you had to stop hissing at them.”
God sent his Son to earth so that we might have a perfect
example to follow.
In this Gospel reading we have an example of how anger
can be channeled to good uses.
Jesus was angry about what was going on in God’s house;
evidently, money and worldly things were more highly worshiped than God.
This was wrong, and Jesus set about to correct the situation.
We know that he made a whip;
there is no report that he struck anyone with it.
Maybe he just cracked it to get people’s attention.
We know that he overturned the tables;
there is no report of damage to them.
The coins were scattered about; but there is not report of theft.
He made it difficult for them to continue their transactions.
It seems that Jesus was just hissing at the moneychangers.
By scattering the people, the animals, the business locations
and the money;
Jesus’ actions were directed at a solution to the problem that angered him.
The result of anger should work to correct the wrong,
not escalate it by retaliation.
AND just doing nothing is not an option.
We must work to identify the sources of our angers,
and then ACT in a moral way to resolve the problems.
The longer we let the sources continue,
the longer we face the temptation of lashing out in vengeance.
Anger is an important emotion.
We should examine what makes us angry and how we handle it.
Abortion makes us angry; it should.
Innocent lives are being taken.
Anger should prompt us to respond,
but not by bombing abortion clinics
or harming those who participate in abortions.
We must channel our efforts toward positive measures--
prayer, supporting mothers with untimely pregnancies,
working toward changing laws.
The assault on marriage and the family makes us angry.
How can we respond in a positive manner,
without bashing homosexuals and deadbeat parents?
One last point about anger:
Jack Lemmon played the part of a priest in a movie entitled “Mass Appeal”.
In that movie, he stepped to the pulpit
and announced that his homily would be thirty seconds.
He had three points to make:
1. “Millions of people in the world are hungry and homeless.
2. Most people in the world don’t give a damn about that.
3. Many of you may be more angry due to the fact that I said “damn” from this pulpit than the fact that I said that there
millions of hungry and homeless people in the world.”
Then he sat down.
As disciples of Jesus Christ,
we should also examine our consciences on another matter:
What are the items that should make us angry
as sensitive Christians and do not?
Are there areas that should make us angry,
but do not make us angry enough to move
beyond thoughts and words into some positive action?
Based on a homily by Fr. Bill Bausch in “World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers”
Twenty Third Publications, 1998 p 470.