24th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 13th September
There can be times when a person or an event can cause deep resentment to stir within us. This may be disproportionate to the situation but it can well up in us like acid or a volcanic eruption waiting to burst forth. It is important at these times to allow us the room to notice the anger and bring it before God in prayer. Some psychologists would notice that our angry reaction can last but a moment but our response can last a lifetime. This is why it is vitally important that when we notice this strong passion rising within us that we allow God to befriend us in prayer.
Anger often has a history which is a safety measure which allows us to protect ourselves from danger either to ourselves or to another. We do not become angry about things that don’t affect us or harm something or someone that we treasure. The importance then is to notice that our working through our angry feelings means that we need to give ourselves the space to resolve our own internal reactions. This should be done apart from the person or the situation which has caused us anger. Untamed anger can become our enemy which can unleash inner violence which does harm to us or to another. Anger which is befriended allows us to make constructive use of that passion for the good of another as well as ourselves.
What is strongly associated with anger is noticing both the facts that lie behind it but also the attitude that we have towards the world. At the heart of the readings are the words of the psalmist, “The Lord is kind and merciful, slow to anger and rich in compassion”. What is essential is how having acknowledged and befriended these feelings we notice that we are not called to plan vengeance but seek forgiveness for ourselves and for the other. This is not so that we do not acknowledge serious injustices but that we allow us to notice how each person is called into a living relationship with God and with another. The two go hand in hand. We become people who build relationships of trust and healing. This is not just a simple panacea but rather forgiveness which is heartfelt and life-giving. When we do not allow God’s forgiveness to be at the heart of our lives our anger can be like drinking poison hoping the other person will die!
If you are in the midst of a dispute as you read this take time to dwell with God about how you are present to yourself and the other. Be honest, be creative but ultimately be open to compassion for yourself and the other. In so doing we replace the feeling that we are called to be a doormat by becoming a welcome mat. A person is hospitable to others as we seek to befriend ourselves.
Fr. John Armstrong