Prayer list or hit list? Dealing with anger, Jesus’ way. 1st Week of Lent – Friday

Matthew 5: 20-26

St Matthew’s presentation of Jesus is that of The Great Teacher who gives five discourses in the gospel. The opening discourse is the Sermon on the Mount (Chapter 5-7) in which Jesus, addressing His disciples, has placed identity before behaviour. This behaviour is given to them in the beatitudes; a behaviour that is in stark contrast to the scribes and Pharisees who have forgotten the commandments and have pandered to man-made traditions.

Jesus could have come merely to establish The Law, but He comes to fulfill it; and in doing so He goes way beyond what The Law demanded from Him and by extension, to us. This sets the stage for a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. In the first of six hyper theses, Jesus demands that the disciples really push the envelope. The JBC says, “The present interpretations emphasize that Jesus seems to go beyond the Old Testament law teachings, by deepening and radicalizing it, by returning to the original will of God.” In lay man’s terms, Jesus finds the traditional interpretations of The Law presented by the Pharisees as inadequate, though not false. He begins by tackling the sixth commandment, “thou shalt not murder” which is found in verses 21-26.

For Jesus, the analysis of murder as good or bad, is a given! He wants us to take a deeper look at the ‘emotional prelude to murder’, namely anger. The act is but a reflection of a deeper activity in the heart. Even as a priest, I see that the one thing that everyone wants to rid themselves off, including myself, is anger. Yet, how seriously do we take its eradication from our life? Never in our wildest dreams would we think that we could be murderers. But Jesus goes beyond the improbability and addresses the possibility.

So calling one’s brother ‘raqa’ or empty headed (a Greek spelling of an Aramaic word) may seem harmless, but not when there is a possibility of the pot boiling over. The thought leads to words, the words lead to action and then, it’s too late.  For Jesus, the plot thickens when we regard another’s life as useless, which initially is cultivated by words but later, demonstrated in actions.  For the Pharisees, as long as blood was not spilt, no murder was committed. Not so for Jesus! For Him, if any one considers a life as useless and relegated it even to an insult, such behaviour constituted murder. For anger in one letter short of danger.

Having explained the interpretation, Jesus places the consequences or the subsequent behaviour which the penitent needs to have; namely, to leave their gift at the altar and be reconciled with one’s brother. Interestingly, Jesus places the priority of ethics over cult, something that even the Old Testament spoke vociferously in favour of. There can be no true worship of God without justice.

Imagine my dismay, if as a consequence of this Friday’s reading, I would find no one in the Church tomorrow. The reason- everyone has gone to be reconciled with their brothers and sisters. They, having left their ‘gifts’ at the altar during the offertory at Friday mass, left  for various parts of the city and the world, to reconcile with their brother or sister. As bizarre as this may sound, this is what Jesus is asking of us. LEAVE YOUR GIFT AND BE RECONCILED WITH YOUR BROTHER OR SISTER.  For such a reason, an empty Church would be most welcome. And if you can’t travel, move those on your hit list to your prayer list.

Fr Warner D’Souza

With exegetical inputs from the JBC


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5 thoughts on “ Prayer list or hit list? Dealing with anger, Jesus’ way. 1st Week of Lent – Friday”

  • One of the bestest teachings

  • Thank you Fr Warner I feel so blessed as i prayed to Jesus bef Lent began and asked Jesus please walk with me from this Lenten season as I truly wanted to repent from the hurt I cause people by my anger and my being perfectionist attitude.

    Your reflections are an answer to my pray and today’s reflection is Jesus talking to me personally and answering my doubts.

    Thank you Fr Warner
    Blessings n prayers

  • Thank you Fr.Warner for the in-depth sharing on not just following the law but going beyond it….🖒

  • This is simply amazing! Though easier said than done…but something that almost all of us struggle with. Thanku for the beautiful insight Fr.

  • Practical teaching Father, thank you, reminds me too of when Jesus was upset when the temple was made a house of thieves and he made a whip to clean them away. Being human is not wrong I feel until anger becomes danger. That why we need to be in prayer and oneness of God where anger becomes forgiveness.


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