1 Kings 18:41-46
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that
of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
“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,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, 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.
Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him.
Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge,
and the judge will hand you over to the guard,
and you will be thrown into prison.
Amen, I say to you,
you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.”
Good News Reflection: Overcoming the destructiveness of anger
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus explains the increasing dangers of anger by referring to increasingly disastrous results in an angry person’s soul. At the lowest level anger in the heart results in “judgment,” which is represented by the Jewish local court, where the least of the three punishments are meted out.
Then, he names one of the initial ways that anger in the heart becomes anger that kills: Using abusive language toward others (“raqa” means nitwit or imbecile) destroys their self-esteem by belittling their true worth. The abuser must now face a trial before the Sanhredin, the highest judicial body.
Finally, Jesus warns us that holding others in contempt (“you fool”) is even worse. No longer an “imbecile”, the person under attack is being called “worthless” (the direct meaning of the Greek word). To get so angry at people that we totally disregard their value is to condemn ourselves to “Gehenna”. (Gehenna was a local valley used by a pagan cult to burn children to death as a sacrifice for their demonic gods, and the Jews thought it a fitting representation of what we today call “hell.”)
The idea that this kind of anger is equal to murder is easier to understand if we read 1 John 4:7-21, which says that God is love, and when we have anger, we have no love; therefore we don’t have God, and without God we do not have eternal life.
Name-calling is not the only way we belittle others and kill their self-esteem. Any such damage affects how they live and think and react to situations and handle other people, often for many years. Pieces of their hearts or behaviors or personalities have died. Our repentance, plus psychological counseling and inner healing, with Jesus’ help, can restore these dead areas to new life.
We have all been damaged. I hope you’re taking full advantage of God’s healing for the wounds you still carry. It makes it easier to stop inflicting the same harm on the people around you. It is a choice. Holiness means owning up to our choices and working hard to establish new and better ways of treating others.
Jesus explained the remedy for the anger we feel: “Go and do whatever is necessary to be reconciled with the one who’s made you angry.” This, he points out, is even more important than worshiping God. How genuine is your worship if anger has replaced love in your heart, since God is love?
When someone treats us unfairly, anger is a natural reaction. As a feeling, there is nothing sinful about it, but what we do with it indicates how close we are to Christ. To stay close, we respond with an act of love; we “go and do,” disregarding our angry impulses for the sake of holding others in high regard.
For a Bible Study on the entire Sermon on the Mount, visitwordbytes.org/bible-study/holy-living-1
Forgive me, Jesus, for the times I insulted others! I wasn’t aware that when I insult them I also insult You. Fill me with Your merciful love and heal me from the anger inside me. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica