One area of therapy that I have extensive training in is anger management. This is one area of life that I work on with someone which for the most part is normal. Anger is part of the human experience. If the energy of anger is used in a positive way, then it can change worlds. I think of the young people in Florida and across the country who are channeling their anger about the loss of friends and peers into a movement that governments and us older people cannot and should not ignore. Our young people’s anger needs to challenge us all. I think of Mahatma Gandhi and how Indian independence was won. Not through violence, but nonviolent resistance.
So now, we come face to face with Jesus in the cleansing of the Temple. He definitely was angry. But, did his destruction of property justifies the means? Conflict resolution says to have a dialogue, express your thought and feelings, and look for consensus. I am quite sure that this approach would have not worked. Jesus’ s righteous anger was not against the individuals but against what they were doing. The money changers played an important role. The Roman coins used in ordinary life could not be used in the Temple because the coins had Caesar’s image on them. As we heard in the first reading, there could be no graven images. The money changes changed the money into a temple coin with no image. So far, so good. But, of course, there was a surcharge and fee…. which kept increasing. The poor were being ripped off…. a grave injustice against the Commandments and the Covenant. Jesus’s anger was justified because he confronted injustice. The same with the people selling the animals for sacrifice. Those animals needed to be pure and without blemish. The sellers were performing a good service, but, like the money changers, they were ripping off the poor. Again, we see the reason behind Jesus’s anger. He confronts the injustice done against the poor and needy. He was faithful to the Covenant of Sinai.
There are times when we as Christians cannot remain silent. We need to symbolically turn over the tables of those who do injustice; we need to remind the world about the need to return to what is right and just. Jesus did not harm those corrupt money changers or the corrupt animal sellers. But, he destroyed the structures that kept them in the business of taking advantage of others. Our righteous anger needs to do the same. Complicity can be as dangerous as violence. In Penitential Rite A which we have been using for Lent, we admit that “we have done and that we have failed to do.” The young people in Florida and throughout the country teach us how to handle our anger about the tragedy they experienced. Get angry and demand change.
This is really what the 10 commandments are about. They are not suggestions or punitive. The commandments are about human and divine relationships. They challenge us to put God first, to honor others, and to respect one another. They are about human relationships. Our justified anger, and Jesus’s, arises when God is disrespected and others are objectived and exploited.. Jesus know the mandate of the covenant. We are called to it too.
Jesus’s righteous anger reminds us to use the energy of our anger to change the world, not destroy it. May we learn from the youth of Florida and get angry and change the world. May Jesus give us the courage to speak loud enough to be heard.
Lord Jesus, Your anger in the Temple spoke boldly about the rights of the poor and needy Your action calls us to the reality of our call to being voices for those who cannot speak for themselves. May we use the angers of righteousness we feel to work for the Kingdom; not to destroy one another. Lord, thank you for the young who challenge us out of fear and complacency. May this Lent be the challenge to us to be those you use to bring about the Kingdom Amen