Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost—9 July AD 2017
Ave Maria!


Please continue to pray for Little Charlie Gard, the ten month old boy with mitochondrial depletion syndrome

For a number of unrelated reasons I decided to revise this sermon during the wee hours of Sunday morning. At that time, the word on the Net was that the British government has indicated a willingness to hear new medical evidence in Charlies's favor.  Good things seem to be happening.  Please keep up the prayers.

And please spread the word about Charlie's plight.

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

“Whosoever is angry with his brother,
shall be in danger of the judgment….”[1]

    I need to tell you a number of things in order to explain today’s Gospel.  The first is about the language Jesus spoke—Aramaic is said not to have “superlatives.”  These are words that let us express degrees of size or importance.  In English, we can say that something is “great,” “greater,” or “greatest.”  But in Aramaic one expresses degree either by repetition or exaggeration.  We often hear our Lord repeating the phrase: "Amen, amen, I say to you," which can be interpreted as: "Truly, truly, I say to you," which is the equivalent of saying "very truly," or "most truly I say to you."

    In today's Gospel our Lord does not repeat, but He does seem to make His point by exaggeration.  Clearly there is a great difference between killing someone and being angry with them or even saying nasty things to them.  But our Lord wants us to understand that all of these things can be bad, even if not equally serious. Moreover, quiet anger can lead to loud anger, and maybe even to violence and murder.  Some people operate with a particularly “short fuse,” and go from the first stage to the last stage very quickly.

    In the night Office we read a Commentary on the Gospel by Saint Augustine, the fifth century bishop of Hippo in northern Africa. [2]  Augustine recognized that our Lord was exaggerating a bit, so he inserts a missing word into our Lord's words: “Thou shalt not be angry with thy brother without a cause....”  There are times when decent people should get angry—for example if you see a man beating his wife or kicking his dog without reason, a little anger –quietly expressed—might be in order

    Let us look more closely at what our Lord has forbidden:   The anger that corresponds to murder is irrational and passionate.  It is lucky when it is not verbally expressed.

    “Raca” is an Aramaic word that we would translate as a combination of “stupid” and “inferior.”[3]  The idea is that the anger is expressed in words—words which are meant to humiliate another.  Often, they have no basis in reality.  They are the product of emotion rather than correct reasoning—therefore, they can be deadly..

    Calling someone a “fool” is different from calling him “stupid.”  In the Old Testament, the fool is found in the first verse of Psalm 13 and Psalm 52: The fool said in his heart: “there is no God.”[4]  The biblical fool is an atheist—and there can be nothing worse than to deny God and cut one’s self off from His graces.  Our Lord categorizes this as the worst sort of angry insult—to falsely label someone as a heretic or an atheist.  To the Jew of Jesus’ time it was the ultimate insult.

    Yet, taking a cue from Saint Auustine, we can see that reasoned anger (rather than passionate anger) sometimes has its place.  Saint Thomas tells us that “Prudence is right reason in action….[5]  the lack of the passion of [anger] is also a vice, as it is the lack of movement in the will to punish according to the judgment of reason.”[6]

    Saint John Chrysostom says:

Only the person who becomes irate without reason, sins. Whoever becomes irate for a just reason is not guilty. Because, if ire were lacking, the science of God would not progress, judgments would not be sound, and crimes would not be repressed.

Further, the person who does not become irate when he has cause to be, sins. For an unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices: it fosters negligence, and stimulates not only the wicked, but above all the good, to do wrong.”[7]

    Yet, since our Lord equates (senseless) anger with murder, we must always be on our guard against it.  Fortunately, Saint Peter gives us solid advice on how to avoid sinful anger in today’s epistle.  We must make a personal and positive effort to cooperate with God’s graces in all we do and say.  We must cooperate with the Holy Ghost by “having compassion for one another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble: not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing….”  God the Holy Ghost offers every assistance, but we must consciously cooperate with His graces.

    Later this year, Saint Paul will give us very similar directions in his epistle for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.[8]

    I am going to suggest that the most important item in Saint Peter’s and Saint Paul’s lists is being humble.  Humility is something we always see in Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.  Humility is the virtue by which we recognize our strengths and our weaknesses relative to another person—we acknowledge our faults while giving God credit for our gifts.  We recognize that we are no better than the next fellow—that we have no rights that go beyond his rights.  With humility we recognize that he is neither stupid nor inferior;  he is no less a child of God than we are.

    Yet humility is a virtue closely allied with truth.  In humility, we also recognize when our brother has departed from right reason.  In humility we are motivated by reason to offer fraternal advice to one who is in danger of going astray. 

    With God’s graces and humility we are able to avoid the judgement, the Council, and the fires of Hell.  Please pray for an abundance of both!




[1]   Gospel:  Matthew v: 20-24

[2]   Bk. i. on the Lord's Sermon on the Mount, ch. 9.

[5]   St. Thomas Aquinas,  Summa Theologica  II-II Q.47.a.1.

[6]    Summa Theologica, II, II, Q,158, a. 8

[7]   St. John Chrysostom, Homily XI super Matheum, 1c, nt.7

[8]   Epistle of the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost: Galatians v: 16-24


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