Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
“Whosoever is angry with his brother,
shall be in danger of the judgment.”
Today’s Gospel is part of our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount. It follows a section
in which our Lord tells us to make disciples of others by giving good example:
“You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel basket, but upon a
candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.”
Later on in the same chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel He speaks of not even
thinking about committing adultery, He speaks about the permanence of Marriage,
He prohibits boastful or profane swearing, and urges us to put up with a measure
of hostility from the people around us—“to turn the other cheek.” But today’s
Gospel deals with anger—for certainly, no one gives good example while running
around with a “hot head.”
Of course, we really must distinguish what we mean by anger in this passage.
Our Lord is talking about the anger we have when we want to injure someone or
take vengeance on him. That sort of anger may contemplate physical violence, or
it may be a loud-mouthed berating in attempt to make the person feel inadequate
or ashamed in front of others. It is completely possible to commit this sin of
anger without lifting a finger and without saying a word—some of us are very
capable of “stewing” about something in our mind, and raising our blood pressure
every bit as much as if we had taken a few swings at the one we hate. Holding
it in may be better than letting it out, but there is always the danger that
mental anger may burst into physical anger without a moment’s notice.
There is, however, such a thing as righteous anger. Saint Thomas tells
us that “[Anger] is good in so far as it is regulated by reason, whereas it is
evil if it set the order of reason aside.”
Although the anger must still be controlled, we should become angry when we see
the honor due to God violated, or when we see someone taking advantage of
another. Our Lord’s vocal contempt for the hypocrisy of the Scribes and the
Pharisees is a good example, or His physically driving the money changers out of
the Temple is another.
Perhaps it is unwise to get physical, but it is certainly reasonable to show
contempt for the sacrileges against God committed by people in the modern
world. Or when we see someone beating his wife or kicking his dog, we should
have a similar feeling of dislike for the evil they are doing. Sometimes
intervention becomes a duty. But, again, as Saint Thomas says, our anger must
remain “regulated by reason”—one must not go berserk on the idolater, the
blasphemer, the wife beater, or the dog kicker—one’s aim should always we to
restore the right order of things, not to seek vengeance.
For the most part, though, we have to be on our guard lest we lapse into the
unrighteous form of anger. That would seem to be the reason why the Church
pairs today’s Epistle and Gospel together. Saint Peter gives us a list of
dispositions which we must practice if we are to minimize our unrighteous anger:
We are to “be of one mind”—we must strive for unity in our families, in our
Church, and in our nation—a unity that is always based on the love of God and
the keeping of His Commandments.
We are to have “compassion on one another”—accepting each other’s shortcomings,
and helping each other to overcome the difficulties of life.
We are to be “lovers of the brotherhood”—which I would take to mean a
brotherhood of all Christian men and women.
“Merciful, modest, and humble”—the three go together, for the humble person will
never try to out-do his associates, nor try to out-shine them with fancy
things. The humble person will be merciful for he knows his own shortcomings
and the punishments they deserve, and therefore be unwilling to inflict
punishments on others.
We are not to render “evil for evil, or complaint for complaint”—for that would
be a species of vengeance, which belongs to God alone. But rather we are to
“bless” those who offend us, that we may be blessed in return.
We must “refrain the tongue from evil and speak no guile”—speaking evil of
someone or inciting treachery against him is a sure way of instigating anger.
We must “decline from evil and do good ... seek peace and pursue it.”
In the Gospel our Lord spoke about being “reconciled with our brother” before
going to the Temple to offer our sacrifice. We might think about this as the
necessity for being in the state of grace to receive the Sacraments, and to be
rewarded by God for our good works. It makes no sense to come before God,
seeking His favor, if we are holding unjust grudges against our fellow adopted
sons and daughters of God.
If we love God, we must love our neighbors for the love of God! If we love God
we will strive to make disciples of His children by our good example—example always
“regulated by reason.”