May 28, 2021
Each day, I reflect upon a word or phrase from the readings of the day. I encourage you to do the same and perhaps incorporate that word or phrase into your daily prayer.
They came to Jerusalem, and on entering the temple area he began to drive out those selling and buying there.
He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. (Mark 11:11-26)
ANGER: There are a handful of gospel passages that make us say, “I wish Jesus hadn’t done that” or “I wish Jesus hadn’t said that.” These passages make us uncomfortable.
For instance, we wish Jesus hadn’t overturned the tables of the moneychangers and driven them out of the temple. Couldn’t he have talked it over with them first, calmly expressing His point of view?
Why was Jesus so angry?
The temple, for the Jewish people, was the very dwelling place of God on earth, the place where heaven and earth met. It was the place where harmony between divinity and humanity was achieved, where the one true God was honored and worshipped. It was a sacred house of prayer, especially during the time of Passover, the height of the Jewish year.
Keeping that in mind, Jesus encountered not a house of prayer, not a sacred place, but a marketplace.
What Jesus encountered was not coffee and donuts in the narthex. It was sacrilegious chaos. It was not only physically dirty; it was spiritually and ethically dirty. The temple was in need of cleansing. That’s why Jesus was angry.
Let’s compare our anger to that of Jesus. We generally get angry when someone offends us or keeps us from doing something we want to do. We get angry when we want something for ourselves, but don’t get it. In other words, our anger is most often centered on ourselves and our desires.
In comparison, Jesus was angry because the actions of those in the temple offended God. He was angry because the merchants were treating God’s house with contempt. They were cheating the people who came to worship, manipulating sacrificial law to benefit themselves. Instead of a selfish anger, Jesus acted out of a righteous anger. The anger of Jesus wasn’t self-directed; he defended the holiness of his Father’s temple.
So, is it ever OK for us to get angry?
The short answer is, “Yes, absolutely!” As a matter of fact, Catholic social teaching calls us to anger – when we see God’s kingdom under attack, when we see the dignity of life disregarded, when we see those most vulnerable enduring neglect and abuse, when grave sin is flaunted before us, when we witness evil that profanes God’s holiness. Absolutely we should be angry, and we should act on that anger.
This anger should be a righteous anger focused on what offends God. It should be an anger governed by love, directed not at people, but at the actions that are offensive. We are not perfect – our actions offend God at times too – so peace and compassion must be a part of our righteous anger.