Snacking on the Word: From Anger to Grief in Mark 3:5a

Jesus heals the man with the withered hand in  Mark 3:1-6. I was reflecting on this in my daily lectio recently and was struck by the Lord’s two emotions in the passage:

He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart …

I wonder if we are not shown the holy way out of anger, a feeling I find I’m having some difficulties with these days. J. Ruth Gendler had the measure of anger in her fine book of many years ago.

Anger sharpens kitchen knives at the local supermarket on the last Wednesday of the month. His face is scarred from adolescent battles. He has never been very popular.

Anger is trying to gain Truth’s friendship and respect. Anger is a meticulous reporter. He is accurate about details and insists on the facts. He never lies, but he rarely understands anyone else’s point of view.

And this track led me to a deeper look at Grief:

One day at the edge of the firest Grief heard another woman crying out. She spoke with her. She listened to her story. Grief was surprised. She had never met anyone else who had suffered as she had.

After a long day and night of mourning and crying, Grief was “washed clean of her tears.”

The confrontation of Jesus with the Pharisees over healing on the Sabbath is not really a parable, like Ms Gendler’s stories of Anger and Grief. But looking deeply, it is a teachable moment for the believer. Anger can easily lead to more and deeper alienation, the scars of juvenile outbursts, and the like. The difference, it seems, is one of listening and perception. This seems difficult, at least for me.

How do I listen to the people with whom I’m angry? And then, how do I find the courage to grieve? I don’t have any answers to that. It might take a whole Lent to figure it out.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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7 Responses to Snacking on the Word: From Anger to Grief in Mark 3:5a

  1. Anger can be a fuel, in proper measure, to remind people that Jesus doesn’t (didn’t) endorse conventional wisdom and strength in numbers or momentum for popular movements that fail to have the gospel truth as their engine.
    Note a couple of responses over at a certain forum where certain “squeaky wheel ” adherents can’t resist crowing about how progress achieved by both the top and the down still remains insufficient to the progress of the “movement.”
    Anger sometimes is more charitable than intolerant inhospitality, no matter from which polar opposite from which it eminates and stinketh up the atmosphere.

    • Todd says:

      Among human beings, giving anger justly means being open to receiving it oneself. In my thinking, that’s the true test of it. The trap is being all too ready to express it, but thinking oneself above being the target.

      Speaking personally, I’ve always found anger fruitless.

      • Liam says:

        Good point.

        Anger is emotional energy. I would say people who are prone to externalizing their anger tend to need to learn more restraint, and people who are prone to internalizing their anger tend to need to find a just way to let it out. Of course, there are people whose tendencies are mixed, depending on the context and relationship (or lack thereof) involved; how often we tend to elide such a mixture in the personality in favor of a simpler narrative….

        Psychobabble alert: I find anger is most useful in getting an internalizer to move out of internalization (where anger then turns to resentment and depression) into a more playful place. (Yes, play is seriously important; especially for Lent – it is a spacious place where we learn to detach from the ruts of our internal narratives that we cling to unnecessarily.)

        I am most distrustful of anger hurled by self-anointed prophets with a great deal of self-dramatization and egoism going on; you can tell, because when you get angry back at them, they ascend a scaffold of (white) martyrdom with all the air of schooling in the Academy of Dramatic Arts (to borrow a phrase by Joe Mankiewicz put in the mouth of the fictional Karen Richards as played by Celeste Holm).

      • Liam says:

        Oh, and a word about resentment from current personal experience. My parish has been saddled with an ambitious pastor who is Not A Good Fit, as they say; the kind of cleric who will opens a “discussion” with “As your pastor, I have decided”. You know the type. Waiting for purple piping. It’s interesting to watch all the anger he deflects get re-cycled in the community, much as anger at an abusive parent gets re-cycled among the siblings. I was discussing with a predecessor pastor yesterday, at a lovely concert elsewhere, that folks need to just stop behaving like the pastor is the definer of the parish’s existence. Yes, for a few years, he will get to take key actions/omissions. But, someday, he too will be gone, and we will remain. We have to focus on not letting our anger be the rudder for everything, because He Is Ultimately Beside The Point, and we need to start aligning our own behavior with that ultimate reality.

      • Liam says:

        PS: I heard this on the radio driving home from choir rehearsal last Thursday night; a repeat of a Moth Radio Hour segment from the middle of the last decade.

        Lots of stuff going on here. Goes to a very dark place, fearlessly. The kind of places that Lent invites us to grapple with.

  2. crystal says:

    I remember when I first started noticing that Jesus got angry. It made me really uncomfortable because in my family no one was ever supposed to get angry – it was a character flaw, a loss of control. A spiritual director once told me my Jesus was a platic Jesus because I never let him get angry :) It’s taken me a while to see the good side of anger. I read recently in a novel that anger is also passion …
    “Passion has overthrown tyrants and freed prisoners and slaves. Passion has brought justice where there was savagery. Passion has created freedom where there was nothing but fear. Passion has helped souls rise from the ashes of their horrible lives and build something better, stronger, more beautiful.”

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