The Anger of Jesus
By Deacon Mike Jacobs
“If you hear the voice of the Lord, harden not your heart.” As I was preparing for this sermon I heard a voice speaking to me in the passage. “For I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their father’s wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestow mercy down to the thousandth generation, on the children to those who love me and keep my commandments.”(Ex 20:5-6) My Father had passed away this last month and in preparing the eulogy I was blown away at how much my parents had given of themselves. I had to call my mom and share with her the great blessing that she had given all us children in the witness of their lives, not in words but in actions, the living out of their faith.
When Jesus drove the merchants and money changers out of the temple, was this the same Jesus who extended the commandment “You shall not kill.” We find in Matthew 5:21-26 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment’. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment. Is the Jesus whom we see knocking over tables and driving out animals with a whip the same Jesus who said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil, but if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also, and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have the cloak as well.” (Mt 5:38-48)
Actually, what Jesus gives us here is an example of how to live out his teaching on anger. As one of the “capital sins” anger is a source of much evil. But this means abiding, choric and usually unacknowledged anger distorts our attitudes and infects our behavior. This happens when we let our anger “grow” in us. In itself anger is just a natural reaction that is part of the human nature God created. There is not fault at all in feeling angry, any more than in feeling hungry or cold or scared. Like every emotion, anger can be put to good use or bad. In today’s Gospel Jesus shows us how to use anger as an expression of Love.
Love seeks union of mind and heart. Love works through communication. Expressing anger can say to another how strongly one feels about something — even about that person. What father who appreciates how beautiful his daughter is could hear her use an ugly words and not get angry? Anger that is a revelation of one’s heart for the sake of evoking a beautiful response from another’s heart is love. Anger which just tries to silence — or to kill — another is not a healthy anger. Anger can energies us, bring us to life and empower us to act. If the expression of our anger brings others to life in a good way and aims at this, it is love. Love is the willing the good of other as other. To act out of anger in a way that kills something in another which could have blossomed into life is bad.
Jesus anger in the temple showed how much he cared about people and it was directed to bringing about a change of heart in those to whom he expressed it. Jesus did not insult the merchants. By quoting Scripture to them he acknowledged their faith and the bond he had with them as a fellow Jews (see Mt 21:13; Mk 11:17). By saying they had turned God’s house into a “den of thieves” he was not saying they were bad people, but reminding them of how good they were called to be. When a mother tells her son his room “looks like a pigpen” she is saying precisely that he is not a pig and should not live like one. By expressing the anger he felt, Jesus was trying to show people what they were doing and how bad it was, so that they would change.
Jesus did no violence, either to persons or property. He knocked over tables full of money — which would not break. He picked up some pieces of rope and used them to drive out animals. He told the dove sellers to take their birds outside, but he did not release the doves to fly away. The violent expression of his feelings was for the sake of communication; it was not violence directed against anyone.
Jesus tried by his gesture in the temple to bring his enemies to truth, as he taught in the Sermon on the Mount (see Mt 5:24-25). It was not going to work and when it did not, he did not fight but let them “destroy the temple” of his body on the cross (see Jn 2:18-22) Jesus did not use anger to destroy others, but in the hope of bringing others to life, even when he knew it would lead to his own death.
Jesus was not a man who stood meekly by and let evil go unchallenged. He did not use violence to overcome evil, but he did take forceful measures against it. What he used above all was the testimony of the truth, to which he gave force through the passionate expression of his own feeling. The gentleness and respectful love of enemies he teaches in not an excuse to stand by and do nothing about evil. It is a call to risk speaking the truth and even accept dying ourselves in an effort to bring people together in unity, love and peace.
Third Sunday of Lent
by Deacon John Hackett
Well, here we are, at almost the halfway mark for Lent. It’s the third Sunday of Lent, and three Sundays from now, it will be Palm Sunday. And at this point, scripture gives us a kind of a pit stop – but it’s hardly for rest and to stretch our legs. The Old Testament reading lists The 10 Commandments – and then the gospel gives us the story of Jesus cleansing the temple, the moment when Christ literally upsets the old order. Both readings, I think, are intended, (at the center of Lent), to keep us centered. To remind us of the reason behind this season.
And you find that reason – (the guiding force that animates everything that we do) – in the very first commandment, in the first reading. This, I’d argue, is the one commandment so many of us break again and again… maybe without even realizing it. “I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.”
It is easy to recognize the gods that the early Israelites had – especially the golden calf you may remember from that movie with Charlton Heston; always in constant reruns. And clearly, the money-changers in the temple had their own gods as well — which might be familiar to some of us, too. Those are what infuriated Christ so much – the idols of money, wealth, greed.
They are gods which would most certainly be recognizable to Bernard Madoff. You may remember him from a few years back…. a former stockbroker and investment counselor, and admitted fraudster who ran the largest ponzi scheme in world history. BTW, “Bernie”, (as he was affectionately called) , had to forfeit over $17 billion dollars, and now currently resides in a federal prison serving a 150 yr sentence.
But then there are other gods in our world that are less obvious. There is a man, many of you may never have heard of, who had a profound impact on many, many lives. He died about 10 years ago. His name was Fr. Joseph Martin, a R.C. priest, and over many years he gave a number of talks around America. The most powerful and influential of those talks all began with the same seven words: “I’m Joe Martin, and I’m an alcoholic.”
Two of Fr. Martin’s talks – (so called “chalk talks”, because he used a blackboard) – were filmed, and became standard viewing at treatment centers and hospitals all over the country. He helped countless people he never even met. One doctor interviewed about him said, “Fr. Martin has done more to help those suffering from addiction than anyone in the last 50 years.”
Fr. Martin often spoke candidly of his own struggle with alcoholism. Days when he was afraid to go near the altar, because of his drinking….Sundays when his hands trembled….The years that he kept bottles of liquor hidden in the bathroom….The time he was confined to a psychiatric ward in California.
He finally was sent to Guest House, a treatment center for clergy in Minnesota, devoted to caring for Catholic priests, deacons, brothers, seminarians and women religious suffering from alcoholism, chemical dependencies, and other addictions involving food and gambling. The motto at that facility (which is still thriving today) is “None too early, None too late”. It was there that Fr. Martin turned his life around, and began the slow process of turning around the lives of tens of thousands of others. He established a treatment center in Maryland. One of the patients there was Michael Deaver, a former White House Deputy Chief of Staff, who once said, “I had been with presidents, kings, popes and prime ministers, but Father Martin was the most powerful person I had ever met. You see,” Deaver explained, “Father has the power to change people, to make them better, to make them whole again.”
It was a power, I think, that was rooted in something you’ll find in today’s readings. Like the ancient Israelites, Fr. Martin had been freed from a place of slavery. And he had turned away from an addiction which had become, for him, a god.
As we near the midway point on our Lenten pilgrimage, it’s worth asking ourselves if there are gods in our own lives that we need to turn away from.
As Fr. Martin discovered, there is the god of addiction. It could be addiction to alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, food…you name it. It could even be an addiction to the Internet which seems to be creeping up on us so quickly these days.
But there are also gods like ambition. The god of egotism. Or bigotry. There is the god of self-doubt and fear. Of mediocrity or dishonesty or hypocrisy. These are all gods that can overpower us.
But Lent encourages us to take a long, hard look at all the problems and frailties that haunt our lives — all our setbacks and downfalls, all our stumbling blocks. All the small gods that loom large in our lives. And it asks us to stop, and quietly walk away from them. To turn back to the only God who can uplift our hearts and save our souls.
A few months before he died, Fr. Martin marked 60 years as a priest, and 50 years of sobriety. And he spoke of his journey in terms that can resonate with each one of us, as we look forward to the bright hope of Easter.
“How can I explain,” he asked, “what it feels like to be risen from the tomb of addiction?”
How can any of us explain what it feels like to turn from our old way of living and dwell in the hope and the promise of Christ?
Lent is a reminder to us that we can change the way we live. Taking a cue from the gospel: this is a time to look at the wreckage of overturned tables and scattered coins and livestock, and sweep out the debris, and begin anew.
It is a time to cleanse the messy temple of our lives, with all those false gods, and get back to basics.
It can be daunting task to re-order our priorities, to clean up the mess. I’m sure the money changers in the temple had to do it one table at a time, one coin at a time. Fr. Martin did it, like so many alcoholics, one day at a time. Maybe there is a lesson there for all of us.
In ending, we have about 25 days left in Lent — 25 days with opportunities to turn our hearts and our minds back to the One God before Easter. 25 chances…to begin again. So let’s make them matter.
Third Sunday of Lent
By Deacon Don Griffith
The gift of the commandments and of the Law is part of the covenant God sealed with his own (CCC2060). This covenant had certain regulations for worship ( see Hb 9:1). They were to sacrifice certain animal-sheep, oxen, doves for their sins. Israel was a people peculiarly God’s own. He gave Israel His laws and decrees. He did not deal this way with other nations. Israel was to be a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Exod 19:6) so that the other nations would through them come to know the One True God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Pilgrims journeying to Jerusalem would not bring these animals, but would buy them when they arrived. At some point merchants began to sell these sacrificial animals in the outer court of the temple, and those who would change the money into currency accepted by the temple also set up shop there. Those in charge of the temple would profit from this. Everyone, even gentiles were permitted in the outer court of the temple where this was taking place. It would have impossible for the gentile or anyone else to enter into prayer with all the flurry of selling and money changing going on there. Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce. He made a scourge and drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father (CCC584). In St. John’s gospel this cleansing of the temple, comes right after Our Lord’s miracle at Cana, at the beginning of His public ministry. It is worth pondering why the temple authorities don’t just take this man into custody or throw him out of the temple for such a blatant disruption of the norm of the temple life. To drive out all those sellers and animals is a proclamation in action of His divinity no less miraculous than a healing or driving out demons. But they ask Him a question- to see a sign; as if they are asking are you from God or not from God? He is not from God-He is God; and if they had known the Father, they would have known Him because everything had been given in preparation for His coming. So, He answers their question by speaking about the temple of His body.
The moral prescriptions of the Law are summed up in the 10 commandments. The Law is holy, spiritual, and good, yet still imperfect. It shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfill it. Because of sin, which the Law cannot remove, it remains a law of bondage. According to St. Paul, its special function is to denounce and disclose sin. Many examinations of conscience use the 10 commandments as their basis. Sacrifices under this covenant were needed to be repeated ceaselessly and were unable to achieve a definitive sanctification (see CCC 1540). This cleansing of the temple cannot only be seen as restoring order to a house of prayer-Or as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes-not just an angry outburst against the abuses that happen in all holy places, but must be seen as an attack on the temple cult of which the sacrificial animals and the collected temple monies were a part (Spirit of the Liturgy pg 42). Our Lord told us do not think that He came to abolish the law or the prophets: He came not to abolish but to fulfill. He was the only one who could keep it perfectly (CCC 578); and the only perfect sacrifice is the one that Christ offered on the cross as a total offering to the Father’s love and for our salvation (CCC 2100). Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. That same sacrifice- the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross-is made present to us in the Eucharistic sacrifice For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Hb 9:13-14). The grace of the Holy Spirit enables us to live our new life in Christ and to keep His commandments. In Revelation we hear Whoever is dear to me I reprove and chastise. Be earnest about it, therefore. Repent!. And in Tobit we read For he scourges and then has mercy. Here, in the depths of Lent may our Lord make a scourge and drive out from our hearts all our disordered affections and lift us up by His mercy to be living stones fashioned into the temple of His body