From Rorate Caeli:
The following sermon was delivered Sunday by Fr. William Farge, S.J., who is also one of the 56 priests who say regular Traditional Latin Masses for the Rorate Caeli Purgatorial Society.
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
St. Patrick’s Church, New Orleans, LA
In the gospel today Jesus offers us a deeper, broader understanding of the meaning of the fifth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” He challenges us not only to understand this passage of scripture literally, not only to obey the obvious meaning of the commandment not to kill, but to go beyond it in order for us to learn to excel in virtue and in the holiness to which we are all called.
Jesus interprets the commandment this way: “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall not kill.’ But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment…whoever calls his brother a fool shall be in danger of hell fire” (Mt. 5:21).
These are very strong words. Hearing them, we might wonder is getting angry really so bad that I would be in danger of Hell. St. John Chrysostom tells us that any uncontrolled expression of anger is not just an offense against another person. It’s a direct attack on God, on God’s very essence and being because God is love. The essence of God is relationship and unity among the Persons of the Holy Trinity. By inflicting our anger on another, we not only harm our relationship and our unity with that person, we are actually rebelling against God who isrelationship and is unity in Himself. Not loving another is an insult against God whose very being is love. Any offense against love then is an act of blasphemy against the very being of God Himself.
St. John Chrysostom also tells us: “To be angry with another, is to open oneself up to the devil. Nothing gives more pleasure to the powers of Hell than anger among brothers and sisters, and the moment a rift is made in a relationship by uncontrolled anger, the evil spirit pours into us like a torrent.”
Satan knows that the bitter feelings behind one’s anger insults God. This is why Jesus teaches us that anger against others is an offense that is much more serious than we might think and puts us in danger of hell fire.
Of course, there is also justifiable anger. Jesus Himself showed justifiable anger at the buyers and sellers in the temple, for example. He also showed this kind of anger in the synagogue of Capernaum when, as the gospel of Mark tells us, Jesus “looked around at the Pharisees in anger, deeply distressed at their stubbornness and hardness of heart.” (Mark 3:5). But His anger was not uncontrolled anger.
St. John Chrysostom gives us some advice: “The human emotion of anger is not something to get rid of,” he says. “It is a weapon, a sword that God puts into our hands for us to fight against our real enemy, Satan, and against the works of Satan in the world.” “Do not delight Satan,” he says, “by inflicting injury on your own family and friends; direct your anger against the devil and against evil.”
Today Satan’s power is growing exponentially due to the enormity of human sinfulness.
Today there are sins that have become institutionalized as a part of our society and even in our laws, and far from becoming angry about that, many of us have become quite tolerant and even accepting. Institutionalized sin has become acceptable sin.
Perhaps one of the most glaring examples is the sin of abortion. It’s the serious sin of killing human life, a violation of the fifth commandment that has become legal. Some of our politicians have even called abortion “sacred ground” that must be defended, and have even used the name “sacrament” for this abominable sin.
The recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage is another clear example of mortal sin that has become institutionalized. The mortal sins of sodomy and impurity, in addition to killing, has been set in the law of the land; and to compound the seriousness of this sin, it has been given the name of a sacrament. The sin of sodomy is now called “marriage:” a lie that is being perpetrated as a law. These laws are a direct attack on God’s loving plan for families and on God Himself. Our legal institutions, particularly the Supreme Court, are acting as a kind of ministry of propaganda for Satan, promoting a tolerance for sin, calling sin a good.
Anger should be directed against this institutionalization of sin that attacks God and our society. Of course, all this did not happen all of a sudden. The widespread use of contraception has degraded our sense of morality. The use of pornography has long caused a gradual breakdown in the relationships between husband and wife and parents and children. Psychologists tell us that a person addicted to pornography in any form gradually and even without realizing it becomes unable to relate to the real people in his or her life.
Certainly anger, if out of control and turned against another person, is always misdirected anger. But anger used as a weapon against evil is used for the intent that God has given it. St. Thomas Aquinas said: “The person who is tolerant of evil when there is just cause for anger is an immoral person.” We will be called on more and more to fight against the acceptability and tolerance of evil in our society by following Christ and obeying the Commandments. And so let us focus our anger not against other people, but against Satan and the works of sin, particularly institutionalized sin, in our world today.