Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
"But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment..." (Mt. 5:17-37)
On the last Friday in January 2023, millions witnessed a horrible video clip that showed Tyre Nichols, an unarmed man, brutally beaten by angry police officers. Although this was an ugly scene, there was something worse. When additional officers came to the location to evaluate the situation, no one reflected the Good Samaritan's action. None of the officers on the corner "approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them" (Lk. 10:34). Additionally, not one neighbor offered the fallen victim a glass of water. Then, again, when talking to friends, colleagues, and folks on a national level, some pulpits in the Catholic Church seemed to avoid using this incident for a preaching context.
As a teacher of scriptures, one of the most fundamental practices I learned about while reading the Bible came from Karl Barth (d. 1968). Barth, a Swiss Calvinist theologian, said, "Take your Bible and take your newspaper, and read both. But interpret newspapers from your Bible." However, today we perhaps have to say, "interpret the video camera from your Bible." The point here is to recognize that when we see trouble in our society, especially like
we have seen in these last days: earthquakes, racial hatred, children hijacking cars, the disparity in generational wealth, children shooting teachers, and shootings at shopping malls, etc. we must look towards God's word. In desperation, we must seek the Lord's grace and mercy now to respond to these awful atrocities witnessed, and we are only in the second month of the year.
Therefore, today's Gospel is timely when viewing the newspapers or videos. We see so many people in this world who are angry. People are mad because their team didn't win the big game. Some are furious over the economy as food prices continue to rise. We even see on the political stage Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene scream "liar" in anger at President Joe Biden during the State of the Union. Anger is taking center stage in our society.
We see in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus had a stern message about angry people, "But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment" (Mt. 5:22). And when we combine Matthew's passage with the scripture reference to Exodus, "Whoever strikes someone a mortal blow must be put to death (Ex. 21:12), I am saying Ouch!
In other words, in the Old Testament, if you hurt anyone, death was your punishment. In the New Testament, Jesus is not even concerned about a physical blow. Jesus teaches that if we are angry without a blow, we will be liable for judgment. For this reason, Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill" (Mt. 5:17). Jesus is holding everyone accountable. We must find ways to reconcile our differences with our neighbors before we bring our gifts to the altar.
Therefore, it is fitting when Jesus said that unless "your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." We must get control of the smallest member of our bodies, the tongue, because it is "a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God" (Ja. 3:8-9). When we lose control of our tongues, our righteousness will never surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, "all our just deeds are like polluted rags" (Is. 64:5).
If I am angry at my brothers and sisters, I am angry at God!
Are you Angry?
Meditate on St. Paul's word:
26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger,
27 and do not leave room for the devil. ...
29 No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.
30 And do not grieve the holy Spirit of God, with which you were sealed for the day of redemption.
31 All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.
32 [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. (Eph. 4:26-27, 29-32).
Author: Evang./Prof. Howard, MACS, Facilitator, University of Dayton, VLCFF,
The University of Notre Dame, McGrath Institute, STEP Online,
Lead Faculty and Course Designer "The Presence of Black Catholics in the Church Today and Tomorrow" Register for Spring courses now at Loyola Marymount University,
Founder of Eat the Scroll Ministry "I ate it, and it was sweet as honey" (Ez. 3:1).