Nailing Down Anger
Feb. 15, 2008
Readings: Ezek 18:21-28; Mt 5:20-26
"But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment." Mt 5:22
In Ireland, there's a tradition of teaching children the ill effects of anger. A child was often given a sack of nails and ordered to hammer a nail into a shed or a log or a wall whenever he lost his temper. In the first days, upwards of 25 nails might have to be banged into the wood daily. But gradually, as the child learned to get his anger under control, the number of nails hammered would decrease until the child learned it was easier to control his temper than to drive a nail into the wood.
The parent would then instruct the child to remove one nail for every day the child could hold his temper. When, finally, all the nails were removed, the parent would lean over and point to the scar in the wood and say, "See the scars left in the wood? Every time you lose your temper and say things in anger or call people bad names or wish ill will upon them, you leave a permanent wound. A verbal scar is as hurtful as a physical one."
Jesus summons those who would be His followers to pay heed to similar advice. He says that when we damage our relationships with others, we damage our relationship with God. God will not accept us into His kingdom until we reconcile with our neighbor. That means letting go of our anger and resentment.
"We resemble God most when we forgive our neighbors," St. Faustina wrote in her Diary (1148). Indeed, Jesus died on the Cross in order that our sins be forgiven. He, in turn, calls on us to extend mercy towards those who cause us grief and to forgive without delay. After all, since God doesn't exclude anyone from His love, how can we?
Dear Lord, just as I seek forgiveness from You for my sins, I ask for the strength to be always ready to forgive those who have grieved me. Please help me to banish anger and resentment from my heart. Amen.
1765, 1866, 2262
Diary of St. Faustina