“I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…”

Once again we find Jesus speaking to His disciples during the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:20-26).  Here, the Lord focuses on anger, particularly anger between persons that causes a rift.  Christ urges reconciliation before approaching the altar; otherwise this unresolved bitterness can lead to divine punishment (some see the closing words “you will not be released until you have paid the last penny” [v. 26] as an allusion to purgatory) and possibly even the loss of one’s soul for eternity.  Strong words and a difficult teaching.  It is not difficult in today’s world to find much about which to be angry.  Wars, injustice, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, moral decay, and much more.  A righteous anger, which even Jesus displayed from time to time (see, for example, Mk 3:5 and Mt 21:12-13), properly harnessed and directed can lead us to positive action and change.  But this is not of what Jesus is speaking here.  This ire seeks to ignore, or worse, tear down another because of a real or perceived slight or injury.  In this case, as well as the broader examples of injustice, reconciliation is only possible if the focus is on the sinful actions, not a disparagement of the individual sinners (that is, all of us).  Love is the only acceptable response (since this is God’s only response) to others.  So while evil should prompt us to act, it should always be with the love of mankind in mind.  “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ez 18:23)

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