Ex 20:1-17; I Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25
Today’s first reading teaches us that the Ten Commandments are the basis of our religious and spiritual life. Instead of restricting our freedom the Commandments really help us to love and respect our God and our neighbors. The second reading reminds us that we must appreciate the Divine “foolishness” of the crucified Christ and obey His commandment of love as expression of our Divine worship. Today’s Gospel gives us the dramatic account of Jesus’ cleansing the Temple of its merchants and money-changers, followed by a prediction of his death and Resurrection.
A man was driving without his seatbelt when he spotted a patrol car right behind him. He grabbed for the belt and put it on. But it was too late, and the red lights began to flash. “You weren’t wearing your seatbelt,” said the officer. “Yes, I was,” said the man, “and if you don’t believe me, ask my wife.” “So how ABOUT it, ma’am?” asked the cop. “Officer,” she said, “I’ve been married to this man for forty years, and there’s one thing I’ve learned: Never argue with him when he’s drunk! Just give him a ticket for not wearing the seat belt.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus doesn’t bother to argue with the unjust merchants and money-changers who have converted the Temple of Jerusalem into a noisy “market place” and a “hideout of thieves.” Instead, he frightens them with his angry order and chases them away, holding a whip in his hands.
Anger has two type: Constructive and destructive. In the Ten Commandments we don’t see…”Thou shall not be angry”. “Anyone can be angry. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, with the right purpose … that is not easy.” – Aristotle
Abraham Lincoln, angry at slavery. Martin Luther King, Jr., angry at racial discrimination, Mahatma Gandhi angry at the racial discrimination against the “untouchables” by the “high castes” in India … righteous anger. Nelson Mandela, angry at apartheid in South Africa. That was righteous anger. When we see a bully beating up on a young kid, when we see a thief stealing an old woman’s purse, when we see a group of girls being catty and mean to another girl at recess, when a husband beats up his wife — the list goes on and on. The Lord God has wired us in such a way that most healthy human beings are angry inside when we see evil and injustice being done to someone.
The example of Jesus reminds us that, as children of God, we are required to do more than pray quietly and promote a peaceful inner disposition. We are also required to act on behalf of what is right, to oppose every evil, oppression, and discrimination. We do these things because we believe that they are contrary to God’s kingdom. In this action against evil, there is a kind of anger that is very useful. Constructive anger is a virtue when it is exercised on behalf of the kingdom. Some of us were taught that anger is a sin. But only destructive anger is sinful. Constructive anger is not a sin. It is a positive and valuable part of human life.
Look at your own life over the past year. If you cannot think of any time when you were angry, that is not necessarily a good thing. Never being angry does not make us holy; in fact, it might indicate that we are indifferent, indifferent to the injustice and evils that are a part of our world. If, on the other hand, you look over the past year and realize that you are always angry, that is not a good thing either. When we suddenly burst into rage at the slightest comment, when we explode without any reason, when we discover that we are living constantly with an internal tension, that is an indication that there are unresolved issues in our life that need to be faced. That is a sign that destructive anger controls us. And destructive anger needs to be eliminated.
But contrary to never being angry or always being angry, constructive anger is healthy. It helps us identify what is wrong, and it motivates us to work against it. If you realize that you are experiencing abuse or manipulation in a relationship, constructive anger can force you to demand a change or to abandon the relationship altogether. If you recognize that the policies of your job, of your church, or of our society discriminate against the poor or oppress the weak, constructive anger can cause you to speak out, to organize, to work for doing what is right.
There is no doubt that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. But he is also the Lord of Justice. Jesus did not sit meekly by when he saw evil being imposed on others. Jesus was not afraid of constructive anger. He used it to build the kingdom. So should we.