3rd Sunday of Lent

03-07-2021Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.”

Was Jesus angry? Yes. The question is what sort of anger did Jesus show in this moment. Aristotle has written, “It is easy to become angry. Anyone can do it. But to become angry at the right moment, to the right degree, for the right purpose, in the right manner, that is difficult. Only the wise person can accomplish it.”

Did you know that there are different sorts of anger? Some people suffer with a caustic and emotional anger that is reactionary and often leads to unnecessary divisions. This kind of anger is often unfocused, irrational and wasteful. Compare that to the anger that Our Lord showed at the temple in today’s Gospel. His anger is focused and rational. It is a constructive anger that corrects a real problem. Jesus’ actions are appropriate because they bring about positive results.

Why is Jesus angry? Our Lord’s anger was focused on those selling animals at the temple. The money changers were operating in unfair ways that discriminated against the poor. They were stealing, thereby making “my Father’s house a den of thieves” as it says in both Mark and Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus called out the injustice by driving them all from the temple.

The example of Our Lord’s actions reminds us that, as children of God, we are required to do more than pray quietly and promote a peaceful inner temperament. There are times when we are required to act on behalf of what is right, to oppose every evil, oppression, and discrimination. We do these things because we believe that they are contrary to God’s kingdom.

In this action against evil, there is a kind of anger that is very useful. The kind of anger that Jesus showed is necessary when it is done on behalf of the Kingdom of God. Some people believe that anger is a sin. Not all anger is sinful. Only destructive anger offends God. Anger that moves heaven and earth closer together is not a sin. It is an essential and necessary part of human life.

Look at your own life over the past year. If you cannot think of any time when you were angry, that is not necessarily a good thing. People confess to me that they are angry about certain things going on in our Church or our world. I suggest that perhaps they are not angry enough. Never being angry does not make us holy; in fact, it might indicate that we are indifferent to the injustice and evils that are a part of our world.

If you are angry all the time, that is not good thing either. When you suddenly burst into rage at the slightest incident or when you find yourself frustrated often or if you find that you are living constantly with an internal tension, perhaps there are some unresolved issues in your life that need to be looked into. These are all ways that destructive anger controls us. And destructive anger needs to be brought before Our Lord and His merciful love.

But contrary to never being angry or always being angry, constructive anger is can bring real healing and holiness. Anger, when used in constructive ways, can help you identify what is wrong, and it motivates you to turn things around. If you are experiencing abuse or manipulation in a relationship, constructive anger can help you to demand a change or to leave the relationship altogether. If you recognize that the policies of your job or of our society discriminate against the poor or oppress the weak, constructive anger can cause you to speak out, to organize, to work for doing what is right.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Jesus is also the Lord of Justice. Jesus did not sit on the sidelines when he saw evil being imposed on others. Jesus was not afraid of constructive anger. He used it to build the kingdom.