+JMJ+ Welcome to part 13 of our current Catholic Book of the Month (month, season, whatever), Introduction to the Spiritual Life, by Brant Pitre. I’m on a Quest to become a saint and I’m using this book as my guide. Come along with me and let’s become saints together! In this post we’ll look at the third capital sin, anger, and its remedy. Not all anger, mind you, only the sinful kind. Anger can be righteous, aimed at preserving or obtaining justice, whereas sinful anger desires to harm someone for vengeance and flows from pride. It also flows from impatience. I think we can see this all around us, especially online these days. But there is an antidote as we will soon see. What follows is based on chapter 13 of the Intro.
The anger aroused by impatience is one thing, but the anger formed by zeal is something else. The former is the offspring of vice, the latter that of virtue.Gregory the Great, Morals in Job, 5.82. In Gregory the Great, Moral Reflections on the Book of Job, Volume 1, 382. Quoted in Intro, page 389, ebook.
As we saw with both pride and envy, sinful anger is described in the first pages of Genesis, linked with one of the Ten Commandments, and warned against in the book of Proverbs.Intro, 391.
Cain provides us with a familiar account of what pride, envy and unjust anger can do to a person. We know how that turned out.
He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.Proverbs 14:29
In ancient Hebrew the “word for ‘anger’ (Hebrew ’aph) is the same word as “nostril” (Hebrew ’aph) (See Proverbs 14:29; 15:18, Intro p. 396.) Once a person goes that far and the nostrils are flaring, loss of control is not far behind. Anger leads to “strife and quarreling” and Proverbs says that a person who sows strife between brothers is an abomination to God. (See Proverbs 6:16, 19, quoted in Intro, p. 397.) “[T]hose who abuse their families or neighbors by reacting to the smallest offense with wrath will eventually end up isolated and alone with their rage.” We all probably know someone like that, perpetually offended, a chip on the shoulder, and a royal pain to be around. I avoid people like that as if they carried the plague. It’s difficult to even speak to them without setting them off. Who has the energy or the time for such nonsense?
For an example of righteous anger we only have to look to Jesus in John 2:16-17 or Mark 3:1-5. The kind of anger Jesus shows comes from His love of God and neighbor. (See Intro, p. 400.)
If you doubt that anger can be sinful and that Jesus rejects it, just read what He says in Matthew.
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that “every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, “You fool!” shall be liable to the Gehenna of fire.Matthew 5:21-22.
Dr. Pitre points out that sinful anger can lead to murder and it did lead to murder when Cain murdered Abel. Jesus forbids even angry words and insults, which expose one to judgment and to the Gehenna of fire. Yikes! We have to root ojut anger from our hearts and from our mouths.
(That’s a hard saying for one as impatient as I am. I have to make a conscious effort to watch my mouth, quick as I am with a snappy comeback. Not a good trait for a supposed disciple. Sigh. But at least I have my Grandmother’s wonderful example to follow. I just have to remind myself to imitate her.)
So how do we deal with sinful anger? We have to resolve to stop it. We have to mean it. Be angry, Paul says, but do not sin (Ephesians 4:26). Don’t sit and brood over imagined or real offenses. Don’t fume in bitterness. Don’t plot to get even. Slow down, take a deep breath, remember what you are trying to do, which is to become a saint. Pray!
…and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…
And ask the Lord for the remedy, for meekness, for gentleness. Anger breeds anger, and worse. But meekness leads to happiness, to blessedness.
There’s more in the book than I can cover in these posts. You can get a copy of your own in hardcover or Kindle ebook format using the links at the end of this post. View other parts of the series on the annotated Table of Contents page and scroll down for this series of posts.
Next time, greed and its remedy: generosity.
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading. I pray that you and I will stay holy and virtuous this Lent, and may these spiritual helps aid us to become who the Lord intends us to be: SAINTS. God bless you and may His Peace be always with you. +JMJ+
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Notes and Links
- The current Catholic Book of the Month is Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus, by Brant Pitre: Hardcover, Kindle. (Amazon affiliate links, see Full Disclosure below.)
- There are a lot of books on the spiritual life listed in a post I did a few years ago on Dr. Pitre’s audio course on Spiritual Theology. There are links in that post for some of those books in PDF format for free at archive.org.
- Morals in Job, 5.85, by Gregory the Great, in Vol. 1: Preface and Books 1–5, Cistercian Studies 249; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press.
Image: in the banner, same one the cover of the book uses: The Road to Emmaus (or The Way to Emmaus), by Robert Zund, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple, by Luca Giordano, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
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