"And laying hold of him, he throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest." St. Matt. xviii. 28.
SYNOPSIS.The ungratefulness of the servant, who, having had his own debt remitted by a gentle master, flew into passion when his fellow servant could not pay what he owed him. The irascible man likely to forget what God has done for him. In order to let you understand the enormity of the offense offered to God by anger, I will show you:
I. The trivial expressions of impatience and irritability are not meant by anger, although they also are sins, and may lead to more grievous things. There is a holy anger, which finds its source in the pious zeal of the soul for the glory of God. Examples: Moses, Our Lord. Sinful anger. Its pernicious effects. Anger in a home makes this home a hell. The bad example to children. Children made cripples by parents in fits of passion.
II. Anger the cause of swearing and cursing. The children learn cursing, and thus this vice of swearing is in some families passed from generation to generation. What should we do to avoid the sin of anger!
How very differently from God do men reason and act! This wicked man, who had just obtained remission of all his debts was so little thankful and so little inclined to be lenient toward his fellowmen, that no sooner did he catch sight of a man who was in debt to him, he flew into a passion, attacked and almost throttled him, and although this man threw himself at his feet and begged for mercy he did not restrain his anger, but would not rest until he had the poor man in prison. Thus, my dear friends, do men act. The master represents God. If He is willing to remit all we owe to His justice, if He treats us with kindness and leniency, He does it so that we should act in the same manner towards our brethren. An ungrateful and irascible man soon forgets what his God has done for him. For the least reason he flies into a passion and abandons himself to it, making himself unworthy of the very name of a Christian and greatly offending thereby God, who is so forgiving and kind.
In order that you may appreciate the great offence offered to God by Anger, I will try and show
I will not speak of the trivial expressions of impatience and of irritability which we hear so frequently. Even if not grievous sins, yet you should not omit to accuse yourselves of them, as they easily lead to more serious things. Anger is a violent and vehement commotion of the soul, which resents and rejects with all its power something displeasing to it.
There is also a holy anger, which arises from the holy zeal with which we may defend the affairs of our God and our Religion. St. Thomas says, that man may become angry sometimes without offending God, according to the words of the royal prophet: "Be angry, but sin not." There is, therefore, a just and reasonable anger, which may be better called zeal, which fills our soul when we stand up for the affairs of God. Holy Writ records many such examples.
Moses acted in holy zeal when enraged at the fact that the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf and despising the true God. He had many of them killed to avenge the Lord, who, in fact, had commanded him to do this. Jesus Christ Himself acted in holy zeal when He went into the temple to drive out all who were buying and selling therein, saying to them: "It is written: My house shall be called the house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." Of this kind is the anger of a pastor whose heart is filled with zeal for the salvation of his flock and for the honor of his God. Woe to the priest who remains silent, when he sees his God dishonored, and souls erring from the right path! If he does not want to be himself damned, he must, if disorder gets the upper hand in his parish, disregard all fear and combat it with holy zeal, though he be persecuted, even killed for it.
I say, therefore, that this is a holy anger, approved and praised by God. If your anger would always be of this kind, then you would gain but praise for it. But the sinful anger we behold in the quarrels and enmities between neighbors, between brothers and sisters; there we must recognize what a dangerous, mad, sinful and cruel passion anger is. The pernicious effect of this passion is no doubt known to you from experience. The Holy Ghost says: "He that flies into a passion loses not only his soul and his God, but he also shortens the days of his life."
The Prophet Isaias tells us that a man who is in anger is like water stirred up by a storm. A beautiful picture, my friends. Indeed, nothing represents heaven better than a calm sea; it is then like a great mirror, in which the stars reflect their heavenly lustre, but as soon as a storm disturbs the water all these heavenly reflections disappear. Even so it is with the man who has the good fortune of possessing patience and gentleness; he is truly an image of the Lord. But when anger and impatience disturb this repose, the image of God disappears. He then ceases to be the image of God and becomes the image of the evil spirit. What are the sentiments of the evil spirit? the sentiments of hatred, of revenge, of discord, and even so are the notions of a man in anger. What are the utterings of the evil spirit? They are imprecations and curses. And what comes forth from the mouth of the person in a passion but imprecations and curses? Oh, my God, what terrible company is a person who is subject to fits of passion! Look at that poor wife, who has a husband of that kind. If the fear of God is in her heart and if she wishes to prevent him from committing other sins, she has to remain silent, however much she may wish to resent his insults. She has to be contented to sigh and weep in silence, so as not to make their married life insufferable and to avoid giving scandal. The irascible man will say for his excuse: "Why do you contradict me, knowing that I am a man of rash temper?" Well, my friend, if you allow your temper to be rash, what right does that give you over others? Are not others as good as you? Why don't you tell the truth and say that you are short of religion? What right have you, if you have the fear of God in your heart, to allow yourself to be governed by your passions, instead of making yourself their master?
But if there are unfortunate wives with ill-tempered husbands, there are, on the other hand, husbands so unfortunate as to have wives who will never speak a kind word to them, and who become excited and violent on the smallest provocation. How unfortunate is the household where neither one nor the other will give in and where there is continuous quarrelling, anger and dispute. Oh, dear Lord, is this not like the hell upon earth? And what school are the poor children passing through in such a household? What lessons of charity, patience and gentleness may they learn? How many poor children are crippled for life by the punishments they receive from parents in fits of anger. And anger never appears alone. It is always accompanied by other sins, as we shall soon see.
Anger is the cause of swearing and cursing, of blasphemy and malediction. The Holy Ghost assures us that the house of a man who is addicted to swearing is full of injustice and that it will be visited by the punishments of God until destroyed. Can any one listen without shuddering to these unfortunate people who dare go so far in their anger as to swear by the holy name of God, that adorable name, which the angels repeat incessantly with so much joy: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of armies. Thy name be praised for all eternity!
Never forget, my good friends, that the tongue has been given to you to praise God; that it has been consecrated to Him in holy Baptism and holy Communion.
What makes the sin of cursing and swearing all the worse is this: If parents are in the habit of committing this sin the children will acquire the same habit and the vice will become hereditary in the family. If there are so many houses which harbor unhappiness and are the lurking place of the evil spirit and a picture of hell, you will find the explanation in the blasphemies and curses which have descended in these families from generation to generation.
And how great is the sin of those, who, in their passion, even curse themselves l This is a terrible crime, a crime against nature and against grace, for nature and grace fill us with love to ourselves. A man who curses himself is like a maniac who kills himself with his own hand. If they would take the trouble of thinking over what they are saying in their anger and passion they would never have the courage of uttering these maledictions against themselves, maledictions which almost force the Lord to condemn them. Oh, how unfortunate is a man who is subject to anger and passion. He forces the Lord to punish him, the same Lord who wishes nothing but his weal and welfare. But you will say: "What should we do to avoid the sin of anger, which is so terrible, and fraught with such evil consequences?" All sufferings in this world should remind us that it is only just that, as we have revolted against God, others should revolt against us. We should never give others reason to curse and to swear. Children should be particularly careful not to cause their parents to become angry. Parents should remember that they have nothing more precious in this world than their children, and that instead of cursing them in anger they should bless them. If anything happens contrary to your wishes, do not fly into a passion, but rather say, "God bless you." Act like holy job, who through all his sufferings praised the name of the Lord. Look at his great submission to the will of God. If you do the same, the evil spirit will flee from you, all your goods will be blessed and all that has been taken from you will be restored to you twofold. If in an unguarded moment you should be taken with anger, and one of those bad curse words should escape from your lips, make immediately an act of contrition, ask forgiveness and promise to avoid committing this sin again. St. Teresa said that the whole of heaven rejoices when we pronounce reverently the name of God, while there is joy in hell when we use bad language. A Christian should never lose sight of the fact that the tongue has been given to him to praise the Lord in this world and to thank Him for all the good with which He has blessed him in this life, so that through all eternity we will praise Him with the angels and the saints. This will be the lot of those who have followed the example, not of the evil spirit, but of the angels and saints, yea, even of our Lord Himself, who was the true model of meekness and gentleness, and who may at the end of our days take us all into His kingdom. Amen.