Whoever is angry with his brother . . .
Angry saints. It sounds almost comical, but the truth is that many saints struggled with controlling their anger. Historians think Jesus nicknamed the apostles James and John the “Sons of Thunder” because of their anger. St. Paul was known for his angry outbursts whenever he felt that the gospel he preached was being misunderstood. Even sweet Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, had to work on controlling herself.
In today’s Gospel (Matthew 5:22), Jesus says that uncontrolled anger has the potential to reap the same spiritual consequences as killing someone. So how can we get our anger under control? Let’s turn to an expert: another saint, Francis de Sales.
First, try to recognize the first signs of anger as it creeps into your thoughts. Perhaps you recall a past hurt done to you, or perhaps someone just appeared to slight you. Peacefully but deliberately, set the anger aside before it takes root. St. Francis warns, “Give anger ever so little way, and it will become master, like the serpent, who easily works in its body wherever it can once introduce its head.”
Then pray. “When we find that we have been aroused to anger, we must call for God’s help, like the apostles when they were tossed about by the wind and storm waters.” Francis recommends saying something as simple as “Have mercy upon me, O Lord.” Prayer is your number one weapon against anger. Call on God whenever you need help so that you can keep walking along the road of holiness and humility.
Last, be patient with yourself. Change takes time. Francis encourages us, “Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them—every day begin the task anew.”
If St. John can go from being a Son of Thunder to an apostle of love by walking with Jesus, you can too. With vigilance, prayer, and patient perseverance—and the help of the Holy Spirit—you can begin to set aside your anger and become a disciple of love.
Word Among Us