Lent is a special time for us to do battle with sin. The Lord pours out special graces during these forty days, so that we can become holier. Today let’s focus on the vices of anger and lust.
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.
Anger, then, is unique among the seven deadly sins, because sometimes getting angry is not a sin. Injustice naturally makes us angry. Righteous anger is called zeal.
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.
3 thoughts on “Laetare Sunday Homily: Anger, Lust”
Could you comment briefly on priests commenting on wearing rose vestments. Honestly, if I hear another inane comment about how men don’t wear “pink” and how the women in the congregation must think Father is well-dressed today, I will just go crazy. And none of these priests explain the purpose or history of rose vestments. They just make fun of it and thereby mock the whole sacrament with which those vestments are associated. Ugh.
Sorry–just a little venting. My wife and I are truly in a wilderness where the Church is lacking in men–priests–willing to proclaim the Gospel in its fullness.
Great homily Father! I attended Mass at a different church this past Sunday, and I’ll just say that it is amazing how different homilies are in tone and focus. The homily I heard was so “feel-good” that I wanted to raise my hand and say “Hey, don’t go so easy on us!” Father, thanks for your thought-provoking, challenging words.
I enjoyed reading this homily for its wisdom on the sins of anger and lust. God gave us the capacity for sins and our mission in life is to seek serenity through virtuosity. I am truly grateful for the capacity the devine has given me to attain spiritual growth as I struggle with over God’s gift of lust. Destructive forces in my life, give me benchmarks against which I can rest in comfort knowing that I am reaching an ever higher spiritual plane.
However, I must disagree that God gave us the concept of marriage directly. Marriage is a construct of social engineering to help us attain a more perfect and spiritual celebration of God’s gift or prcreation. God gave us marriage, no more than he gave us religion and the Catholic Church or Zen Buddhism.
Although, I am a great fan of the institution of marriage as we know it in our most spiritual sense, I do not dare to presume that the man made concept can evolve to a higher, and yet to be understood, celebration of God’s gifts to us mortals.