GOSPEL READING: Matthew 5:20-26
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 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 hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
Meditation: Are you ever driven by anger, rage, or revenge? The first person to hate his brother was Cain, the son of Adam and Eve. God warned Cain: Why are you angry? ..Sin is couching at the door; it’s desire is for you, but you must master it (Genesis 4:6-7). Sin doesn’t just happen to us – it first grows as a tiny seed in our heart. Unless it is uprooted by God’s grace, it grows like a weed and chokes the vine and all its fruit.
Forbidden anger must be uprooted from our heart
Jesus addressed the issue of keeping the commandments with his disciples. The scribes and Pharisees equated righteousness with satisfying the outward observance of the law. Jesus showed them how short they had come. Jesus points to the heart as the seat of desire and choice. Unless evil and forbidden desires are eradicated, the heart will be corrupted. Jesus points to forbidden anger with one’s brother. This is a selfish anger that broods and is long-lived, that nurses a grudge and keeps wrath warm, and that refuses to die. Harboring anger in the heart as well as anger in speech and action are equally forbidden by God.
God’s love and truth sets us free from anger and malice
What is the antidote to anger and rage? Mercy, kindness, and forbearance spring from a heart full of love and forgiveness. God has forgiven us and he calls us to extend mercy and forgiveness towards those who cause us grief and harm. In the cross of Jesus we see the supreme example of love and forgiveness and the power of goodness for overcoming evil. Only God’s love and grace can set our hearts and minds free from the tyranny of wounded pride and spiteful revenge.
Do you harbor any anger towards another person? And are you quick to be reconciled when a rupture has been caused in your relationships? Ask God to set you free and to fill your heart and mind with his love and goodness. Paul the Apostle reminds us that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Through the grace and help of the Holy Spirit we can overcome malice with good, hatred with kindness, and injury with pardon.
May I be no man’s enemy, and may I be the friend of that which is eternal and abides. May I never quarrel with those nearest me: and if I do, may I be reconciled quickly. May I love, seek, and attain only that which is good. May I wish for all men’s happiness and envy none. May I never rejoice in the ill-fortune of one who has wronged me. When I have done or said what is wrong, may I never wait for the rebuke of others, but always rebuke myself until I make amends. May I win no victory that harms either me or my opponent. May I reconcile friends who are angry with one another. May I never fail a friend who is in danger. When visiting those in grief may I be able by gentle and healing words to soften their pain. May I respect myself. May I always keep tame that which rages within me. May I accustom myself to be gentle, and never be angry with people because of circumstances. May I never discuss who is wicked and what wicked things he has done, but know good men and follow in their footsteps. (Prayer of Eusebius, 3rd century)
9 Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
11 Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
12 Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.