Anger Management

I think America needs a course in anger management. All of us have witnessed glaring instances of road rage and outbursts of temper. Both in private and in public people do not hold back any more. We take offence easily and let people know that we are offended. America is probably the most litigious nation on the planet and we want someone to pay up if we perceive to be mistreated or incur a loss.


As we reflect on our independence and our unity as a nation, we cannot but be concerned about this seething, bubbling lava of anger just beneath the surface. The shooting of the congressman from Louisiana by an enraged gunman from Illinois once again reminds us that we are an angry nation. Elected officials and talking heads on TV certainly do not help the situation. They often pour fuel on the fire with their partisan, and sometimes hateful, rhetoric. Probably the Fathers of our nation are turning over in their graves seeing how divided we are.

I believe that this extraordinary increase in anger arises from two sources. First of all, we get angry because we feel entitled. When anyone dares to block our path or frustrate our plans, we get irate. Entitlement comes from affluence because money gives us a sense of power. We can naively believe that money can solve any problem. Politicians try to solve problems by throwing money at them. As we have become more affluent, we feel more empowered. We refuse to accept any type of frustration.

Secondly, the self-absorption that we have cultivated over the last several decades has also contributed to this anger. The self-esteem movement which said that anyone can reach for the stars has also helped to create this environment of anger. Lacking in adequate self-awareness some expect the world to revolve around them. When reality hits, they realize that things do not go their way.

The gospel reading for the Feast of the Sacred Heart – which we celebrated a week ago - presents Jesus inviting us to come to Him. The Lord says: “Come to Me all you that labor and are heavily burdened. I will give you rest.” He wants us to come to Him with our burdens and He will refresh us. Then Jesus goes on to say something that you don’t hear at any other time: “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” This is the only place Jesus asks us to learn from Him. We have to learn to be meek and humble.

It is not easy to be meek or gentle. When you put even a gentle person behind the wheel of an SUV, he or she suddenly becomes filled with a sense of power. It is no longer easy to be meek. Many things in our everyday life trigger our short fuse and yet most of us desire to be gentle. Jesus gives us the secret: We can become gentle by becoming more humble.

What does it mean to be humble? Humility is the most misunderstood and the least appreciated virtue in our culture. We live in an age of self-promotion and we want the whole world to know how great we are. We want everyone to treat us with great reverence. Within such a perspective, it is almost impossible to be humble. The well-known orchestra conductor, Leonard Bernstein, was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play?” Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists…”

St Thomas Aquinas said that humility is truth. Being humble does not mean we deny our positive qualities or our achievements. However, we recognize that all that we are and all that we have comes from the hands of God. We realize that we are blessed and we are grateful.

The word “humility” comes from the Greek word, “humus” which means earth. To be humble we must be like the earth. Think about it. How do we treat the earth? We dump our garbage on it, we dig holes, and flush toxins into its belly. We mistreat the earth all the time and it does not protest. And yet, when we throw some seed into the soil and water it, it gives us nourishment. To be humble means to be open like the earth, returning goodness to those who treat us badly. We are called to be open to God’s will, to others and to our own brokenness.

As we get older, we find an even greater motivation to be humble. When I was a young priest, I used to think that I was good and holy. As I get older and continue to face the same struggles and temptations, I realize that I am not that holy. I recognize that God has forgiven me much and in spite of His grace I have a long way to go. As I am getting older, I recognize that if I have any goodness in me at all, it is not my doing. It is His grace. Being aware of my humanity and fragility, hopefully I will be more humble and turn more compassionate towards my brothers and sisters.

I leave you with the simple wisdom of St Theresa of Lisieux who taught us the little way to holiness. By the age of 24 she became a great saint mainly because she knew the path of humility. Here is what she says:

Holiness is not in one exercise or another, it consists in a disposition of the heart, which renders us humble and little in the hands of God, conscious of our weakness, but confident, even daringly confident, in his fatherly goodness.

May we learn to imitate the Heart of Jesus who beckons us: “Learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart!” Let us pray for our country! Happy Fourth of July! Don’t forget your Sunday Mass!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

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8:30 am - Upper Church


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