This gospel reminded me of a presentation I once attended. The topic was prayer and the speaker spoke about the “gift of anger.” Since I had never thought about anger as a “gift,” she quickly captured my attention. The quote she shared which has stayed with me since that time was: “The definition of anger is God getting our attention through our flesh.” She went on to say that anger is sacred and holy. This was her caveat: it’s how we use the energy generated by our anger that matters. We can use it negatively or positively. Through prayer, God will assist us to use our anger to achieve what is good.
I remember an experience of anger which I had when our three sons were in junior high and high school. A friend of mine called me one day and said that her son told her that one of our son’s was being bullied at school. I was shocked by this information and asked for more details. She replied: “There is another student in their homeroom who punches your son very hard on the arm every time he walks by your son’s desk. The teacher hasn’t noticed it. My son told me about it because he’s very upset but doesn’t know what to do to help your son.”
After I hung up the phone, I was distressed and angry. My anger was boiling over. If God was getting my attention through my flesh, my initial thoughts were not exactly holy. I sat down and reflected that our son had not been himself for the past several months. He had been quiet, subdued and withdrawn. I had assumed it was a sign of his adolescence and hadn’t thought it was significant. My anger began to turn into overwhelming sadness as it slowly dawned on me that he had been struggling with this situation day after day and had not revealed it to anyone. Thank God for my friend and her son who had the courage to inform me.
That evening, my husband and I talked to our son about the phone conversation. We asked him to pull back his sleeve. When I saw the deep bruises, I felt waves of emotion rising within me. As the tears welled up in my eyes, he looked at me and said, “Mom, you can’t do anything about this. You’ll only make it worse if you do.” I understood what he meant and I didn’t reply to him but vowed to myself that somehow we would find a solution. That night I prayed and asked God to help me to effectively use the energy of my anger.
The next day I had a confidential meeting with his teacher and explained the whole story. She was supportive and compassionate. She assured me that (without our son’s knowledge) she would watch for this dynamic very carefully and handle it in a way that would not involve our son. She called me by the end of the week to report that not only did she catch the culprit just as he was starting to aggressively approach our son she gave him strong consequences and spoke to his parents. Additionally she moved students to new seats ensuring that it would be very difficult for the aggressive student to approach our son without being noticed. In a short period of time, we began to see a positive change in our son. When I asked him about the bully, he smiled, “No more problems, Mom.” He showed me his arm and it was fine. I felt profound gratitude as I quietly thanked God for giving me the strength to direct the energy of my anger.
Jesus took on our humanity and experienced the same emotions we do. God was working through the flesh of Jesus just as God works through ours. In our humanness, we will all experience moments of anger. It’s important to ask ourselves what God might be trying to tell us and to pray about how to use that energy in a positive way. Whether we are defending our families, speaking up for those who have no voice or using our own voices or resources when no one else will--anger is truly a gift from God.
Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel: “Therefore I tell you, all that you ask for in prayer, believe that you will receive it and it shall be yours.” Let us pray that when we experience the gift of anger, our actions and energy will result in someone receiving new life or one small part of the world becoming a better place because God truly got our attention.
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