Please continue to pray for
Little Charlie Gard, the ten month old boy with mitochondrial
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
is angry with his brother,
shall be in danger of the judgment….”
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.
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.”
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
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.”
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….
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.”
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.”
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
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!