Ezekiel 18: 21-28
“But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
“But if a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked person does, will they live? None of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness they are guilty of and because of the sins they have committed, they will die.
“Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die.
Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
Matthew 5: 20-26
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.
“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
If you have ever experienced grief or been deeply hurt by another person, than you know that anger is a natural emotion. Emotions on their own are neither right or wrong, but they simply exist inside each person. So why does Jesus tell us not to be angry at one another? Is Jesus telling us to repress our emotions?
Anger, of all the emotions, is most closely linked to justice. When we are angry at a person or about a situation, it is a sign that something has gone wrong. Some sort of harm has been done in our lives or in the lives of those we care about. This is a perfectly good reason to be angry and since Jesus Himself became angry, anger in and of itself cannot be inherently wrong.
It’s what we do with our anger that makes the difference. If we are angry and stay angry at a person, the anger expressed over the injustice committed by them can quickly become funneled into hatred for them. At that, humanity becomes capable of murder. Unprocessed anger that results in death, whether tangible or even the loss of relationship, separates both parties from God. The person who committed the offense is not given the chance to repent and be reconciled, and the person who the offense was committed against turns into someone just as bad, if not worse, than the original sinner.
So what are we supposed to do with anger? The reading from Ezekiel discusses how a wicked person can become righteous. One of the fastest routes toward righteousness is to act on behalf of those in need. When we are angry against a wrong that is committed, rather than letting our anger fester into an unbearable grudge, God wants to direct our passion toward righting the wrong. Through this, the perpetrator has the opportunity to see the power of their actions reversed, giving them a chance to repent, and the victim is relieved.
Today let’s heed Christ’s advice against letting anger give rise to sin by practicing forgiveness and taking action to right the wrongs done around us.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, please forgive me for the anger that I have harbored in my heart against a brother or sister in my life. I know that these emotions, while natural, unchecked can lead to me falling into sin. Please give me the grace to forgive those who have harmed me most and guide me in the path or reconciliation. Amen.