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Sunday, 8 March 2015

Lent Reflections: 3rd Sunday of Lent 2015

Third Sunday of Lent
Reflection by Fr John Moloney CSJ, taken from St. Antony's Forest Gate:

Today’s Gospel presents to us a quiet shocking scene…. an angry Jesus chasing the moneychangers and traders out of the temple.
What is Anger? Is it a sin and why? If it’s a sin then why was Jesus angry? Is there such a thing as good anger? When does it become bad and so a sin? What are the different kinds of anger?
Anger is the unreasonable desire for vengeance” St Thomas
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An angry Jesus chasing the moneychangers and traders out of the temple.
Anger is a capital sin (source of other sins) but is less serious than pride or envy because the passion of anger can be directed positively. This takes place according to St Thomas Aquinas, when one seeks the righting of a wrong in an ordered and moderate way. Like a teacher getting angry on purpose for the good of the student or victims voicing their anger. 
But the sin of anger is the lust for vengeance, untethered to reason. 
So 1. Sensing the indignation of injustice but 2. Acting on this sensation disproportionately.

It would have been so easy for Martin Luther King to surrender to sinful anger. Once after his home had been attacked by an angry mob, he reacted by saying; “love your persecutors and hate what they have done”. King knew that passion without righteousness is a short road to both moral and political chaos. King’s witness is so rare on the world scene. In Ireland, Rwanda, Holy Land, China, Russia, here in the UK, anger is passed on from generation to generation. Never recovering from past offenses, lust for vengeance wells up unchecked. Families long after what hurt has been forgotten, have anger.

In Dante’s Purgatorio the angry are tormented by a thick smoke that stings their eyes and throats. 
Gregory the Great quoted by St Thomas Aquinas “ the heart goaded by the pricks of anger is convulsed, the body trembles, the tongue entangles itself, the face is inflamed, the eyes are enraged and fail utterly to recognize those whom we know, the tongue makes sound indeed, but there is no sense to its utterance”
Sinful anger obscures correct vision, clean thinking, and honest and helpful communication.
anger
Anger is the unreasonable desire for vengeance” St Thomas
What is the antidote? Forgiveness
How central this is to the Bible and to the New Testament. 
Eph 4:27“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold”
To forgive is a choice not a feeling. If you are waiting to feel it you will never forgive. If you are waiting for revenge or even justice before forgiving, you will never forgive. 
Jesus in this passage of the Gospel use’s his anger to make things right. He doesn’t let his anger get out of control (a very difficult thing to do) but uses it for the good of his father’s house. Anger that’s out of control and no longer attached to the reason is the sin of anger and “anger” is spelt almost the same as “danger”. 
Anger is always a reaction to something that we see as wrong and unjust, the only problem is, we almost always over-react and don’t let the Holy Spirit use it for good and we end up doing something even worse than what we are reacting to.
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“anger” is spelt almost the same as “danger”.
One intriguing aspect of today’s gospel story is the portrait of an angry Jesus in the temple-cleansing scene that gives way to two extremes in our own image of the Lord. Somepeople wish to transform an otherwise passive Christ into a whip-cracking revolutionary.
Others would like to excise any human qualities of Jesus and paint a very meek, bland character, who smiled, kept silent and never rocked the boat. The errors of the old extreme, however, do not justify a new extremism.
Jesus was not exclusively, not even primarily, concerned with social reform. Rather, he was filled with a deep devotion and burning love for his Father and the things of his Father. He wanted to form new people, created in God’s image, who are sustained by his love, and bring that love to others. Jesus’ disciples and apostles recognized him as a passionate figure — one who was committed to life and to losing it for the sake of truth and fidelity.
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Jesus in the temple

Have we given in to these extremes in our own understanding of and relationship with Jesus? Are we passionate about anything in our lives today? Are we filled with a deep and burning love for the things of God and for his Son, Jesus?

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