Sunday, 11 March 2018

Holy Anger

 -Brian Mendonça

How many times have we been angry? How many times have we said things that hurt – when it could have been said in a different way? You don’t have to shout when you are angry. Sometimes it is too late to say sorry, because the person goes away . . . ’

The laity was listening with rapt attention to Fr. Nevel Gracias, parish priest of St. Diogo’s Church, Guirim-Sangolda.* This was the homily for the 10.15 a.m. English Mass on the third Sunday of Lent.  The silent verdant fields around it, as far as the eye could see, enclasped the church in the embrace of nature. Only recently the relics of St. Anthony of Padua were displayed in the Alverno friary nearby for public veneration.  The main altar is dedicated to St. Diogo. He is flanked by St. Anthony and St. Francis of Assisi.

We were wonderstruck that St. Anthony beckoned to us, for we did not initially intend to hear Sunday Mass at St. Diogo’s church. On the way we discussed what we should wish for - this being our maiden visit to the church. Opinion was divided whether we could wish for one thing or three. Queenie settled the issue saying that you can ask for three but God gives you the one that is best for you. 

St. Diogo’s church rises majestically from the flat green plains and can be seen from afar. Founded in 1604, it has stood the vicissitudes of time and has been administering to its flock for over four centuries.

As I sat in my pew I was intrigued by the coinage ‘holy anger.’ How could anger be holy? But after reflecting on the gospel from John 2: 13-25 it became clearer as Jesus refers to the temple to signify his own body.

We are all prone to anger. Jesus, being God made man, also got angry with the merchants in the temple. Taking a whip with cords he chases them out admonishing them saying, ‘You have made the house of God a house of trade.’ 

The scene immortalized in the paintings of Giotto in the late middle ages (14th century), Giordano (17th century) and El Greco (16th century), accentuates our reverence for holy anger, where it is justified to show anger where it is due.

Anger or wrath was seen as one of the seven deadly sins. They were compiled by Pope Gregory of the early church in the year 600.  The others are lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, envy and pride. Fr. Gracias prayed on behalf of all of us for patience and the grace to control our anger.

In front of me a flaxen-haired child was tugging at the lady on the seat, hoping to pull her away into the outdoors, whilst the Mass was on. The woman never lost her temper even once. She tried to humour him, hold him in her arms, but he slid from her grasp. The devout lady was an example of virtue in practice. She triumphed over anger.
* Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 11 March 2018. Pix of congregation at St. Diogo's church and of Fr. Nevel Gracias taken by Brian Mendonca on 11 March 2018. Pix of El Greco painting of Christ driving moneychangers from the temple, courtesy leninimports

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