There is much that could be said about these acts of violence that have become so commonplace in our communities and in our world at large. I would like to focus your attention for a moment upon an element that seems to tie all these horrendous actions together: They are all expressions of white-hot blazing anger.
In general it appears to me that we today have given anger a high and exalted place in our lives. The media thrives on it and we consumers eat it up. We applaud the rage of others or we respond with rage against them. The angrier the presidential candidate appears to be, the more air time he or she receives. And anger is not simply a reality on the public scene. It dominates a sad number of our relationships among families and co-workers and leads to abusive words and actions.
Righteous anger seems to erupt from people today with a frightening randomness. Most of the time this anger is directed against anyone other than ourselves. When it does turn toward self, it results in many kinds of self-destructive activities like drug abuse, self-mutilation, debilitating depression and even suicide.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that anger has no place in our lives. I really believe with the Church that anger is a gift from God. What bland milk toasts we would be if we did not have the passion of anger in response to evil, to unnecessary suffering and injustice. We should hate what is wrong and work boldly to overcome evil.
The problem we human beings seem to have from generation to generation is that we focus our anger towards people and we rationalize the evil itself. It should be the other way around. We should rather turn our anger towards evil and be merciful and forgiving towards people. Jesus certainly understood this. He passionately condemned evils such as the love of money, adultery, and hypocrisy. But he loved the woman caught in adultery, the woman of ill repute who washed his feet with her tears, the tax collectors, Matthew and Zacchaeus, and the thief on the cross. He loved them even when they were lost in sin. And when they showed their sorrow, he gave them his forgiveness.
Jesus teaches, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.” (Matt. 5: 43-45) Jesus is certainly not saying here that we shouldn’t care about the evil that our enemy may do. He himself had come to teach us to distinguish right from wrong. He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it. This is a task the Church continues to be called to carry out. We are to counter evil with love and mercy as we call the world to goodness and holiness of life.
When we see our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters involved in things that are harmful to them, we should want nothing more than to help guide them to the right path. Of all our passions it is not anger, but love that must be the greatest force moving us to action. We must root anger towards persons, both others and ourselves, out of our lives. We cannot claim to be Christians while justifying anger toward others.
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,‘ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.” (I John 4: 20-21)
Only love, the love revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, love Incarnate, can save this dying world of ours.