Thursday, 10th Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, talks about forbidden anger. What is this? It is the anger that kills. One gospel commentary puts it this way: Selfish anger is the parent of murder! According to Jesus himself, God judges the angry heart as severely as the murderous deed. Jesus regards saying angry and offensive words to someone as killing or murder.
Selfish anger is the resentment you feel because someone would not agree to do whatever you want him or her to do. Selfish anger is what causes a politician to refer to his opposition with foul language, swearing, profanity, obscenity, four-letter word. Selfish anger is what causes trolls, bashers, and bullies to demonize somebody on social media. Selfish anger is what causes people to misrepresent their competitors as immoral practitioners of deceit. Selfish anger is what causes a parent to degrade the discipline of a child into a venting of frustration. Selfish anger is what makes us say nasty things and rant on social media
We cannot but put Jesus’ statement against this background. Again, what Jesus is saying is this: Saying angry and offensive words to someone is murder.
The Lord Jesus never allows us to separate our relationship with God from that of a fellow human being. Therefore, Jesus says, “If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” John Wesley said, “Christianity is essentially a social religion, and to turn it into a solitary one is to destroy it.” You cannot have a good vertical relationship with God if your horizontal relationship with the neighbor is soiled, tainted, or damaged by anger.
The Lord exhorts us to take the initiative to settle disputes quickly. I think Jesus is making the point that the longer the dispute goes on, the more fuel will be added to the fire. St. Paul, too, urges us to be quick in settling problems. He says in his Letter to the Ephesians: “Do not let the sun set on your anger.”