Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anger: Righteous or Not?

One of my dear friends, Brother Anthony, is a postulant in a Capuchin Franciscan friary in NYC. Being a postulant means that he is in the process of becoming a friar (sort of like a monk), similar to my process of ordination. Part of his postulency requirement is that he do service with those in his neighborhood who are less fortunate, and Anthony chose to work in a soup kitchen for his homeless neighbors called Neighbors Together. Last week, he blogged about having to turn people away who wanted second helpings, because more people were expected to come in later. He wrote,
Yesterday I was angry with myself for being angry on the serving line at the men who were angry at me because I could not give them more food. I told one of the men that "we're all hungry," meaning that everybody who comes to Neighbors Together is hungry and needs a meal. This man said to me that not everybody is hungry, meaning that not everybody has to come to Neighbors Together.
Anthony also mentioned that he asked his neighbors to write letters on paper plates to their Representative in the House of Representatives. He intends to mail them to the Rep. so that he knows how many people the soup kitchen serves. After reading the letters, he says he feels angry and frustrated at the inequality that causes some to be so poor and while others flourish.

I have to admit, sometimes I get angry about the inequities that cause my own neighbors to live on the street in Central Square, Cambridge. Last Saturday, I distributed sandwiches with a new friend from church, Sophie. At first, we wondered why we didn't see anyone. Then right before it was time to go, folks came streaming into the square. The Korean Presbyterian church down the street had been serving meals on Saturday nights, but the head chef's laptop had been stolen and they blamed the homeless guests. They closed the soup kitchen until a new security system with video cameras could be installed. Thankfully, we had plenty of food- folks took every last morsel we carried. That was their dinner. They had counted on someone else to give them a warm meal. That someone had the prerogative to cancel that meal with no notice and for any reason at all. Our neighbor's stomachs do not have the prerogative to just stop being hungry.

As always, I'm glad I participate in H-EUMC's sandwich ministry, and I was blessed by our interactions this week. But sometimes, like Anthony, I get angry. Sometimes anger can be righteous, like Jesus when he overturned the moneychangers' tables in the temple, and sometimes it can be unproductive, resulting in "hardening our hearts," as Anthony put it. It can be hard to tell the difference. So it's important to remember to use our anger as motivation to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. When we do that, our anger is righteous and is not unproductive or futile.

Have you ever felt angry about something that just wasn't right and you couldn't do anything about it? How did you respond? How do you think Jesus would want us to respond to these things?

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