Anger: good or bad?

Matthew 5: 20-26
Youcat #396

When I was young I used to play a game called “Don’t get angry”.  For many of us it seems like the name of this game describes our motto for how we approach the issue of anger.  We believe that we simply cannot get angry.  Is this really true though?  Is it bad to be angry?  When does anger become a sin?

It is important to understand that the emotion of anger is not a sin.  At first I had a hard time appreciating this until someone asked me once, “did Jesus ever get angry”?  I had to concede that in fact Jesus did get angry, for example when He cleansed the temple.  The emotion of anger is normal.  We should feel angry sometimes.  Anger is the natural reaction to a perceived injustice.  When we see injustice in the world, such as Jesus did when He saw how people were treating the Temple, the house of God, we should feel angry.  There are moments in our life when it is important to feel angry and we should not suppress this emotion.  In fact, if we went through life never feeling angry, then something would probably be wrong.  To feel angry at times can be a good thing and is not necessarily sinful.

The emotion of anger becomes problematic when it leads to hatred.  There is an appropriate way to deal with anger.  First we want to be sure that what we are angry about is truly an injustice.  If it is not, then perhaps we need to adjust our attitude.  If there is truly an injustice, the correct thing to do is to work to rectify the injustice.  Often, however, we deal with our anger in a destructive way, transforming it into hate.  When this happens, this normal and healthy emotion is transformed into a serious sin against charity.  In today’s gospel Jesus is speaking strongly against this.  Often we become angry at someone and we call them names, we speak badly about them or we are unforgiving.  When we respond to anger in this way, it is harmful and sinful.  Such uncontrolled anger, especially when it leads to desires for revenge, destroys peace.  When we deal with anger inappropriately, it leads us away from God and is sinful.

Today’s Gospel is invites us to reflect on how we respond to feelings of anger.  We need to find a balance.  Thinking that we should never get angry is not a Christian attitude.  The emotion of anger should lead us to take positive action to rectify injustice.   Is this the case in our life?  Let us look at our life and see if there are particular relationships are circumstances in which our emotions of anger lead us to hate or seek revenge.

How Jesus raises us from the dead

Luke 7:11-17

When I was a child, my favorite book was “The Velveteen Rabbit”.  Many of you have probably heard this book, maybe you have read this book to your children or grandchildren.  This story is about a toy, a stuffed rabbit, who belongs to a young boy.  Throughout the whole story the rabbit has one great desire: to become fully alive.  During the story we learn that the rabbit can only become alive through love, the love of the little boy to whom it belongs.  This story helps us better understand today's readings. As we will see, in our life, each of us should share the desire of the velveteen rabbit, the desire to be fully alive.

In today’s gospel we discover that Jesus restores life out of love.  Because of His love, Jesus gives life to the dead man.  Try to picture this scene.  You are standing on a dirt road outside the main gate of a walled city.  You see a large group coming out of the city passing through the gate.  You can see that they are carrying a platform on which there is the corpse of a young man.  Beside the platform, clinging to it is a woman wailing.  She is the mother of the man.  She is inconsolable because her only son has died.  It is as though her own life has ended because with her son dead she will have no one to provide for her.  Suddenly you see Jesus approach the platform.  He is visibly moved and goes straight for the grieving mother.  Jesus’ love for the woman is evident in the way He speaks with her, trying to console her.  Jesus’ words surprises all those present: Jesus tells the corpse to get up.  Everyone’s surprise is turned to shock and amazement with what happens next: the dead man arises, he has been raised from the dead.  Two points are clear from this scene: 1) Jesus has the power to give life to the dead and 2) He does so out of love, in this case, love for the grieving mother.  In today’s gospel we discover that Jesus restores life out of love.

Though each of us here is physically alive, at times we can be spiritually dead.  Even though are bodies are healthy, our souls may be sick and dying.  We are all meant to carry within us the life of God.  We call this Divine life grace.  Here on earth, grace fills us with faith, hope and joy.  It helps us to be a better person.  When we die, it is because of this grace in our souls that we are able to live with God forever in heaven.  When we sin, we either damage this Divine life within our soul or banish is from our souls altogether.  Sin robs us of life, both here on earth and eternal life with God in heaven.  At some time in our life, we have all probably experienced the crippling effects of sin.  It robs us of freedom, joy and peace.  This is particularly true when sin becomes a habit, a kind of addiction.  There are many examples.  A work-aholism in which we work so much we neglect our relationships with family members and God.  A consumerism in which we find the only way we can feel good about ourselves is by buying more stuff.  The internet has made addiction even more common whether it be addiction to social media, gambling or pornography.  Because of addiction to sin, we run the risk of being spiritually dying even though in body we may appear to be healthy.

Jesus has the power to restore our spiritual life.  Because of His love for us, Christ desires to give us back our spiritual life.  As a society we are very much aware of the importance of physical health.  We strive to maintain it.  If we lose health, we try to restore it by all means, even spiritual.  If you watch a program from a tele-evangelist, you find it is full of people seeking to be healed physically.  Though we recognize the importance of physical health, we sometimes ignore spiritual health, something that is so much more important.  Though we should pray for those who are physically ill and rejoice when healing is given, we forget that to be spiritually healed is much more important than a physical healing.  To be raise from a physical death, such as the case we see in the gospel, is nowhere near as important or miraculous as to be given life after a spiritual death.  In the second reading we are presented with such a spiritual resurrection.  St. Paul had been stuck in a sinful and destructive pattern of behavior  through his pride he was persecuting the followers of Christ.  His actions brought death to others and spiritual death to himself.  All this changed when Paul encountered Jesus Christ.  At this moment he was spiritually raised from death to life.  His life changed forever.  Only Jesus could have worked such a miracle.  Jesus alone has the power to restore our spiritual life.

It is up to us to seek the life-restoring power of Christ.  Jesus forces His life-changing power on no one.  What if I told you that there was a way for each of us to be raised from spiritual death?  What if I told you that it was easy and only took five minutes?  Would you do it?  In His love, Jesus has made his life-restoring powers readily available to us in the sacrament of confession.  Sin robs us of the gift of Divine life, it causes a spiritual death in our soul.  Confession forgives our sins and gives us back the gift of Divine life.  It is truly spiritual resurrection.  A huge gift, readily available.  Yet we tend not to take advantage of it.  Yes I know, confession can be embarrassing and a bit awkward, I feel the same way when I go to confession.  But is shouldn’t be this way.  In confession we encounter the loving, healing presence of Jesus Christ.  No one is judging us.  No one is taking notes on what we say.  Jesus desperately wants to give us the gift of life through the sacrament of confession.  Will we let Him?  It has never been easier to take advantage of this gift.  You can always come before Mass at St. Matthews.  If that is not convenient, you go to the Archdiocese website,, you can look at other parishes close by to find times for confession.  Christ loves us and desperately wants to raise us from spiritual death to life, but we must seek His help. 

The Velveteen rabbit desperately wanted to be alive.  In the end, love gave life to the rabbit.  Jesus loves us and wants to give us life, but do we have this same desire which motivated the Velveteen Rabbit?  Do we want to be a fully alive, both physically and spiritually health?  Or are we satisfied to be physically alive and spiritually dead?  To be a kind of spiritual zombie?  Jesus has both the power and the desire to raise us to life.  Let us allow Jesus to restore us to life by going to the sacrament of confession soon. 

"You are what you eat" - Corpus Christi

1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 9:11-17

“You are what you eat”.  What we eat has a concrete effect on our life.  If we eat wholesome nutritious food, we will probably be healthier and have more energy as we go about our tasks.  On the other hand, if we just ate chips and ice-cream all day – something I would never do, well, rarely – then we would probably be quite unhealthy and feel lethargic and lack-luster as we went through the day.  You are what you eat.  Today, as we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Jesus, we should consider the meaning of this phrase in our life.  How should receiving the Eucharist change the way we live?  In order to consider this, we must start by being clear about what it is that we actually eat when we consume the Eucharist.

A surprising number of Catholics do not believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.  Numerous Catholics do not think that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.  Exact statistics differ depending on the study.  CARA Institute in Georgetown University found that among Catholics in America, about 6 in 10 Catholics believe that Jesus is really present in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.  So what do the other 4 in 10 believe about the Eucharist?  They hold that the bread and wine of the Eucharist is a symbol of Jesus, but that Jesus is not really present.  To support their opinion, some would refer to the 2nd reading we have heard from St. Paul’s account of the Last Supper.  In particular, they would emphasize that Jesus is telling us to receive the Eucharist in “remembrance if Him”.  When we come together to at Mass, we somehow “remember” Jesus.  We express our attachment to Him, His sacrifice and His teachings.  We remember Jesus but He is not really present in the bread and wine.  A surprising number Catholics do not believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist.

Having a correct understanding of what is meant by the term “remembrance” in our 2nd reading helps us to understand what the Eucharist is.  If we appreciate the meaning of “remembrance” in the Jewish context we will know what is happening at Mass.  Jesus and all His followers were Jews.  Their understanding of “remembrance” was not the same as our own.  If I look at a picture from an old holiday, I “remember” the experience by thinking about where I was, who was with me, the memory may evoke a certain emotion.  For Jews at the time of Christ, “remembering” meant much more, it was a very loaded term.  For example, at each Passover, the Jews remembered the Exodus, when God freed them from slavery in Egypt.  When Jews “remembered” the Exodus, they did not simply understand that they were thinking about it and celebrating the event.  They believed that they were made actually present at the Exodus; they were actually participating at an event that occurred over 1000 years before.  They were present at the Exodus, God was freeing them personally and they were given the invitation to follow God anew in their lives.  Having a correct understanding of what Jesus meant by “do this in remembrance of me” helps us to know what the Eucharist truly is.

When we receive Holy Communion, we are really receiving Jesus.  The Eucharist is really, truly Jesus.  When Jesus said “do this in memory of me”, He meant this in the Jewish sense of the term.  Jesus followers understood that when they “did this in memory of Jesus”, when they celebrated the Mass, they were really present again at the Passion and Death of Jesus.  At every Mass, we believe that we are really made present at the one sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary nearly 2000 years ago.   You know the song, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”  We should answer “Yes, I was there!”; every Mass I am there. Because of this, when we do “this in remembrance of Jesus” He really becomes present in our midst.  At the moment of the consecration, the bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Jesus.  Catholics have always believed this.  The idea that the Eucharist is merely a symbol did not come until much later, more than 1000 years after the death of Christ.  The Catholic belief about the Eucharist is not easy to believe, as Jesus Himself said, “it is a difficult teaching”.  But I believe that Jesus is really present in the Eucharist because He told us He would be.  There is no mistaking what Jesus meant by “do this in remembrance of me” and I take Him at His word.  When we receive Holy Communion, we are really, truly receiving Jesus.

Consuming the Eucharist transforms us to become more like Christ.  Pope Leo the Great, who lived in the 5th century said it this way: "Our sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ has no other purpose than to transform us into that which we receive".  We are what we eat.  This has significance for us both as a community and as individuals.  As a community, when we receive the Eucharist we are transformed into the Body of Christ.  We become one body.  Receiving the Eucharist should concretely make us more united as a community.  We should want to spend time with one another after Mass and outside of Sunday Mass in various parish groups.  Leaving Mass and getting frustrated with one another as we try to leave the parking lot is contrary to the unity that the Eucharist should create in us.  As individuals, receiving the Eucharist should concretely transform our lives.  We should begin to act more like Jesus.  Love like Him.  Be patient like Him.  Be humble like Him. Serve like Him.  People should be able to tell by the way we act that we follow Jesus Christ.  Consuming the Eucharist transforms us to become more like Christ.

Our bodies need good food to grow, remain strong and to work as they are designed to work.  In today’s Gospel Jesus recognized this need and fed the multitude.  Likewise as Christians we are meant to grow and transform to be more and more like Jesus.  To meet this goal, we too need a special food.  Jesus too recognizes this need and at this very Mass gives us the Eucharist, the gift of His very self.  During the Mass today, let us in a particular way re-affirm our faith in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  At the moment of consecration let us say deep within our heart, “Jesus I believe that this is you”, and ask Him to unite us as a community and grow more like Him in the way we act.