By Fr. Erik Esparza
Jesus challenges His disciples, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, you shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment (Matthew 5:21-22).”
Jesus states that both killing and anger are liable to judgment. An initial response may be to reject Jesus’ words. Some might wish to discredit or think it was some mistake. So why would Jesus make this claim? What is He saying? We must not forget that Jesus always invites His disciples to further reflection and more radical living. To be a disciple means to avoid settling for the easy path, limiting the call to holiness or rationalizing immoral behavior.
Our world today is full of countless stories of individuals who walk down a path of hate and choose to release it by taking the life of another. Where does that hate come from? No one is born to hate. Quite the contrary, we are born to love! Yet, as we mature we somehow learn to hate. Hate grows and if one were to search out the root of hate they would most likely find anger. Anger divides, insults, and slanders. Anger leads to lies through the tools of deception and manipulation. Anger destroys relationships, feeds hate and is outlet for ignorance. Above all it can lead to death!
Jesus knows that anger if left unchecked will lead to death. With this awareness we can teach others and ourselves to look for the red flags when anger begins to unmask its ugly face. We must not be ignorant of its potential, but be ready to channel its power into passion for life.
By the way, when was the last time anger made you or your situation better? Honestly, anger will never make you or your situation better. No matter how much you may try to justify it, the only thing anger will do is create further division and unhappiness. Anger will weigh you down and rob you of joy. There will be no doubt times when you get angry, but how you respond in words and deeds will be the true test of Christian discipleship.
Don’t waste your precious days nor risk your salvation for this empty and deflating emotion! If you find yourself filled with so much anger and even hate, I want you to know Jesus gave you a key to unlock it. The key is forgiveness! Forgiveness never approves the wrongdoing nor denies the pain. Forgiveness gives you the freedom to live again. Do not allow the weight of anger, resentment and hate to hold you back any longer. Forgiveness will free you to experience life in a whole new way. It was no mere coincidence that Jesus encouraged His disciples time after time to forgive. For it is through forgiveness that you can experience God’s grace, rediscover joy and find true fulfillment.
Now go forth and be a joyful witness!
Fr. Erik Esparza is Associate Director of the Office of Priest Personnel in the Diocese of San Bernardino.