24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 13, 2020
By Fr. Gerry McDougall, sj
I was taught, more than once, that anger can have two outcomes:
one outcome can be good; another can be regrettable. If we let anger take hold of us, likely the outcome will be something we regret. But, if we take hold of anger, it is a powerful force for bringing about positive change, in our life, or even in the world.
Recently, the world witnessed a great tennis player have a short outburst which, gratefully, did not have the tragic consequences it could have had. He seemed to have acted out of anger, that is, anger at himself for how he was playing. Then, there are the teen ecological warriors of our times, whose anger, right-directed, at wealthy industrialists and powerful world leaders, is educating so many of us about the necessity to care for our Mother Earth, and is changing the hearts and minds of people everywhere, for the better.
Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote the book, Dead Man Walking, is another person who helps us see how anger can have undesired consequences. She is a strong, prophetic advocate against capital punishment, by which an offender is offered no forgiveness, no mercy, but rather has his life taken, apparently, by the collective vengeance of society. In some cases, even innocent people have faced execution, and the lives of many in our world have been the cost of saving the face, and pride, of dictators and other bullies. Sister Helen hopes that more and more of us will recognize the great healing power of mercy.
We have all heard the phrase, “the wrath of God,” but Jesus came to the world to teach us that God is Love, pure Love. If God ever does get angry, that anger is always right-directed, directed by God’s Spirit of pure Love, and we never experience God’s “wrath” as vengeance, but rather as mercy, forgiveness, compassion, healing, guidance, the call to holiness, the invitation to the fullness of life, the abundance of life. Let us choose life, love and mercy, and with Jesus, let us bring more forgiveness, healing and justice into our world.