Righteous Anger

Righteous Anger

Do you ever experience a mood of righteous anger? Something has happened, or someone has done something to someone, and a deep feeling of anger wells up inside your heart.  You feel that what has happened is not right, and you must tell the whole world that it’s not right!

You might be surprised to learn that there were times when Jesus felt righteous anger. I say surprised, because Jesus is sometimes portrayed as someone who was always meek, mild, and gentle. Yes, Jesus was a gentle person; but he was also someone with a deep sense of right and wrong.

On one occasion, there was a man with a withered hand. The religious rules of the day said that the man shouldn’t be healed on the sabbath. This attitude aroused Jesus’ righteous anger. He looked around at the crowd and was “grieved at their hardness of heart”. He asked the man to stretch out his hand, which he did, and the hand was restored to health.

Jesus was grieved at people’s “hardness of heart”.  Usually this phrase is taken to mean that Jesus was grieved at people’s lack of compassion. But the phrase could also mean that people were deliberately closing their minds to the reality of the situation. Of course, there is often an overlap between closing our hearts and closing our minds: we refuse to look at the reality of human suffering, and this allows us to be hard-hearted. Sometimes we are simply overwhelmed with the suffering in the world around us - it is too much to bear, and so we close our minds and our hearts.

So Jesus felt righteous anger over some people’s “hardness of heart”. I wonder where we might find “hardness of heart” in our own lives and in our own world?  What might need to be done to soften our hearts and minds, so that we might respond with love to the suffering of others?

Sometimes we simply don’t have the strength or energy to do what we know is right; sometimes we simply don’t know what action to take.

In both cases, people often find prayer can be a big help. Prayer doesn’t usually solve our problems overnight. But through it, God can begin to melt the hardness of our hearts, so that we may be men and women of compassion, in a demanding and challenging world.

 Fr Jason