Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Lucia Merciful wrath

Sometimes we just need to hear this, summarised as "Be not afraid," as Pope John Paul used to say.

Timidity disguised as charity can do more harm than anger.

Jesus did not appoint the brothers James and John apostles in spite of their temper but because of it. These "Bonaerges" (Sons of Thunder) had wanted to bring fire down on the rude Samaritans. Jesus knew that such anger, if harnessed, could become "righteous." There is a difference between using temper and losing temper, as there is between oil for energy and the Gulf oil spill. Anger rightly used and not lost becomes strength. James became the first apostle to offer his life serenely for the Lord, and John in his maturity wrote, "Little children love one another."

The risen Christ converted St. Paul's destructive wrath on the Damascus road. Later, the Apostle would warn the Galatians that their uncontrolled temper is a "work of the flesh." St. Jerome's letters to St. Augustine show how hard it was for him to control his tongue and pen, and the sun often went down upon the wrath of the Irish missionary Columba. No saint, naturally placid or aggressive, replaced anger with the opposite extreme of timidity. "God has not given us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control" (2 Timothy 1:7).

The cure for both sinful anger and sinful timidity is the virtue of courage. St. John Chrysostom wrote to Timotheus: "For if the wrath of God were a passion, one might well despair of being unable to quench the flame which he had kindled by so many evil doings; but since the Divine nature is passionless, even if He punishes, even if He takes vengeance, He does this not with wrath, but with tender care, and much loving-kindness; wherefore it behooves us to be of much good courage, and to trust in the power of repentance."

Timidity disguised as charity can do more harm than anger, and the conceit that evil will melt away by ignoring it would be like Captain Smith on the Titanic saying, "Iceberg? What iceberg?" St. Augustine said, "God does not need my lie." St. John Fisher, speaking as the only one of his country's bishops who was a true shepherd, lamented: "The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it." Exactly four hundred years later, Churchill would say, "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

St. Alphonsus Liguori was not timid when he counseled: "Even when correcting faults, superiors should be kind." But his kindness was in fact the engine of his zeal to "admonish sinners," which is the first of the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy. Conversely, St. Leo confronting Attila the Hun, St. Joan of Arc trying to make a man of her pathetic king, and Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko staring down the Communists, were not foolhardy in their assertiveness. Their strength came not from Anger Management Therapy but from Christ whose very wrath is merciful.

Related link: The sin of anger, the sin of timidity ~ CERC

2 comment(s):

KG said...

Beautiful post! And so full of truths we desperately need to remind ourselves of, every day.

ZenTiger said...

Indeed, it is tempting to believe that one must completely extinguish one's anger, and it is far more productive to consider instead channeling it and converting it to courageous and just action.

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