An Iowa woman shared on social media how her family had been enjoying an eight-day cruise until day six, when she became ill and tested positive for COVID-19. Her family members tested negative, so she spent the remainder of the trip in an isolation room on the cruise ship. All of the passengers in isolation were escorted off the back of the ship at the end of the journey, at which point she witnessed the worst in human behavior. She saw adults screaming and yelling because they wanted to leave right now and one man throwing a tantrum because his bag wasn’t with him. This is one example of the out-of-control anger that permeates our society.
Last week, after the overturn of Roe v. Wade, a woman who works for an agency that provides abortions told a local newspaper that she threw her phone against the wall after learning the news. In Rhode Island, a state senate candidate is accused of punching his rival in the face at an abortion rally. Social media commentators spit out the “F” word and other derogatory language to vilify whatever lawmaker made them angry that day.
Paul warns about the consequences of anger in a passage from Galatians we heard in the second reading from last Sunday (June 26). “…But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.” The Gospel proclaimed that day also dealt with anger (Luke 9:51-62), which Pope Francis referenced in his Angelus prayer June 26. James and John, angry at the Samaritans’ snubbing of Jesus, ask, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus, of course, “takes another route, not the path of anger, but that of a resolute decision to go forward, which, far from translating into harshness, implies calm, patience, longsuffering, not slackening the least bit in doing good,” the Holy Father says. Why is that so hard?
In his Gospel reflection for Sunday, June 26, Bishop Robert Barron said, “Whenever people have been unjustly treated, excluded, looked down upon, they experience, naturally enough, feelings of hatred and a desire to get back. Correctly enough, they will say that their family or their race or their country was offended, and so they, with justification, react.” However, Jesus teaches his disciples “following him and his way of nonviolence is more important than race or country or ethnic group.”
While reflecting on that same Gospel for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Times, Father John Spiegel, a retired priest of our diocese, said he found the “sentiment and feeling in this passage to be reflected in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s closing paragraph of his last speech in Memphis, Tennessee, the night before his assassination.
Jesus after his mountaintop Transfiguration experience was set to go to Jerusalem to be ‘taken up’ on the cross, in resurrection, and ascension. Dr. King seems at peace with his role in non-violent demonstration for justice” (here for the sanitation workers of Memphis. Read the speech at https://tinyurl.com/9nmd25f5).
The practice of nonviolence begins with learning how to hold our anger in check so that we don’t resort to physical, emotional or spiritual violence. Pope Francis offers excellent advice on dealing with anger, some of which might seem antithetical in a competitive, polarized society that esteems victory over the other, not reconciliation. This advice comes from his Angelus of June 26 and homilies from his past nine years as pope:
• Ask for God’s grace to be more careful with our tongues, regarding what we say to others. This small penance will yield good fruits.
• Ask Jesus for the strength to be like him, to follow him resolutely down the path of service. Ask for the grace to avoid being vindictive or intolerant when difficulties present themselves. Ask for the fortitude to do good, even when others do not understand or even disqualify us.
• When we meet with opposition, we must turn toward doing good elsewhere, without recrimination. This way, Jesus helps us to be people who are serene, who are happy with the good accomplished, and who do not seek human approval.
• Meekness conquers many things. It is capable of winning the heart, saving friendships and much more. We can rebuild with meekness.
• Ask for God’s grace to conform our lives to the law of love, the law of peace.
One more suggestion for the journey: remember to look for Christ in every person we meet.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor