The most famous verse in the Bible: God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16). The Lord would have been justified in condemning the human race long ago. He would have been within His rights to visit His rage upon the earth. But pity stays His hand. He waits patiently for us to repent.
Patience is the proof of love. The Sacred Heart of Christ is a bottomless well of patience. The Lord patiently submitted Himself to unjust men and then bore the bitterness of His Passion without complaint.
On the other hand, the Lord Jesus did get angry sometimes. He angrily excoriated the Pharisees. We saw Him get angry in our gospel reading last Sunday, when He drove the merchants and money-changers out of the Temple.
Whenever the Lord Jesus got angry, his anger was always justified, always reasonable—never gratuitous or arbitrary. His intent always was to correct misguided people.
The problem is, most of us cannot get angry in a perfectly reasonable fashion. We rarely measure our anger and direct it at correction alone. We tend to want vengeance. When our anger is self-indulgent and unkind, it is the sin of wrath.
God is perfectly just. We are not. In Scripture, the Lord declares, “Vengeance is mine.” Our anger does not fulfill God’s justice. God is infinitely patient with us. We need to be patient with others.
Anger can be intoxicating. Wrath can become a habit. It is a dangerous vice. How can we conquer it? There are two antidotes.
The first antidote is to stop and ask myself a couple of questions whenever I get angry. First, Am I angry because of a real injustice, or do I just think it is an injustice? Answering this question honestly requires calm reflection. Generally we need the help of an unbiased third-party.
If my anger is justified, then the second question I need to ask myself is: What is the fitting response? It is extremely difficult to measure out a fair rebuke. Which brings us to the second antidote for the vice of wrath: Pray to Jesus to give us some of His infinite patience.
In our gospel reading, we heard St. John compare works done in darkness and works done in the light. The works done in the light are the upright deeds of the Kingdom of God. One of the most beautiful of these is Christian marriage.
Christian marriage fulfills the plan the Lord first established in the Garden of Eden, when He made man and woman to come together and become one flesh. Marriage is God’s original work of love.
Christian marriage is one of the most powerful forces on earth. The Lord has endowed the distinctive act of marriage with the power to bring new people into the world. Before Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell from grace, they were drawn to this work of love with perfect purity and chastity.
When something is very powerful, it can also be very dangerous. We fallen human beings have a bad tendency to want to pretend we are married with people to whom we are not in fact married. This desire is the vice of lust.
In this day and age, we have to contend with the fact that the culture around us does not understand the beauty and nobility of Christian marriage. Therefore, it also does not understand lust. Holy Matrimony and lust are as different as day and night, as different as light and darkness.
Various pseudo-experts try to tell us that the Catholic Church has a “problem” with sex. In fact, the exact opposite is the case. The Church is alone in defending and celebrating the dignity and holiness of sex in marriage. No one respects sex like the Church does.
Chastity means being perfectly honest and faithful in whatever one does with one’s body. The Lord Jesus, the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, and all the saints have had enormous power to love others because they were chaste. Chastity preserves the power to love by overcoming the temptation to lust.
Brothers and sisters, Christian marriage is sacred, unbreakable, and fruitful. Faithful Christian marriage is a light in the world, and it is only by this light that the human race can understand the truth about sex. It is our mission to bear witness to this truth and to help young people learn to be chaste.
Three weeks until Easter! May the good Lord help us to conquer the sins of wrath and lust with the virtues of patience and chastity, so that we will be able to keep the feast with pure-hearted joy.