Wrath and Meekness
The answers to the questions are prepared by the theologian Monsignor Costantino Di Bruno, Central Assistant of the Apostolic Movement.
The theme of this evening is meekness and wrath. I will speak briefly of meekness to you, through two historical characters of the Bible: one is Isaac and the other is David.
Isaac lived in the land of Canaan and lived in a foreign land. He dug wells, but the inhabitants of that land went and chased him away. Then he dug again and those went took possession of the well dug by him, and, again, if he dug more others came to harass him claiming ownership. And he dug others. This was his life. But Scripture says that the Lord blessed him, and as he was rich he became very rich because of his meekness (cf. Gen 26:12ff). Now, what is meekness? Calm, patience, serenity in all the adversities of life. What Jesus calls “not answering to the wicked doing evil.” So that in the meekness evil is always overcome with good.
David was persecuted by Saul. He could have killed him Twice and he did not. However, he always wandered from place to place, escaping to Saul, because he did not want to hurt the Lord’s anointed. One day David’s son, Absalom, turned against him and unleashed a civil war (cf. 2 Sam 15,1 ff.) because his son wanted to kill his father. Fleeing from Jerusalem one day a certain Shimei, who cursed him, came to him (cf. 16.5 ff.) The commander of his army said to David if he had wished him to intervene to kill him. And David answered, “let it be. If he curses us it is because the Lord commands him to curse and to put me to the test. For the Lord wants to put me to the test, he wants to see if I am able to bear all evils in order to make good triumph.”
Think now about Christ on the cross and you will understand what meekness is. To the supreme evil that we have procured him, he answered with the highest good, praying also for his torturers and those who crucified him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Meekness is an immediate answer to evil with greater good. One greatly harms you and you answer doing a greater good. Like Christ. What is wrath? The non control of our actions and our gestures. So that faced with something that we think is not good we answer in a violent way losing control of ourselves. For St. Paul, you may fall in a fit of wrath. But in it there are two necessarily saints approaches to be assumed. The first, in anger, you need not sin (the new CEI translation makes the Pauline phrase sound like this: “Be angry, but do not sin: let not the sun go down on your wrath,” Eph 4:26). And the second, do not let the sun go down on our anger. That is, we cannot have an anger harbour forever in us. Otherwise it is no longer anger, but hate. Then, the evening we have to close the accounts, make peace, to back to our spiritual quiet. One thing that must be said right away is this. The non governed anger can take you to do actions you do not know the development of and that can lead to even criminal repercussions that could last a lifetime. In wrath you can kill a person. Here is why we must always have the government of acts, gestures and words. A Christian must be able to govern himself. Now let us deepen these issues.
Q. I wish to know if wrath and anger are the same thing. And then I would like to better understand the expression the wrath of God.
A. The wrath of God is the will of the Lord to manifest his supreme justice. God who is angry is a human way of saying, because God never loses control of himself. The Lord is angry because he wants his righteousness to triumph, his righteousness to rule the world. The Lord in the prophet Isaiah says this sentence: “When I am angry for I want to use the justice you hide so I do not see you the wrath goes away from me, and I use mercy and no more justice” (cf. 26.20). And this is sublime in God. This, humanly speaking, happens. And God himself invites you to hide because there is a time when justice must triumph; but then it is also right that mercy triumphs. Anger and wrath in a certain way are equivalent. Many times we use the anger for the wrath and the wrath for the anger. However, it is opportune to always use the wrath because anger is more animalistic, anger does belong to the Christian. God never gets angry. Wrath in its last sense is this desire for absolute justice, this desire for absolute truth, of good behavior on the part of the other. So, in itself, it could also be a good desire, but we must always dominate and govern it. For we must not do anything rash. You can also have a strong moment of anger, but you have to be careful that it does not get out of hand, because you could do bad things. And you see, it suffices to look at the judicial history to see how many people are also seriously compromised physically, by an act of non governed, non dominated and non holily clamped down anger. Did not Jesus in the temple, get angry with the sellers of sheep, oxen, doves? The wrath was holy. There is a holy wrath. But he did not transcend. In wrath, do not sin. Can we rule the wrath? We can govern it if for us wrath becomes a desire for justice. If it gets to be a reaction, then you do not govern it. God always has wrath as a desire for justice, so that he always rules it. The Lord never transcends. Even Jesus lives it as follows: a high desire for justice, but always governed. I further remind Paul: “in wrath do not sin.”
Q. How do you control the words you say and how do you clam a quarrel down?
A. If you want to check yourself you need to ask the Lord for the virtue of wisdom, because the government of man is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and this gift has a name: wisdom. Wisdom is divided into four virtues: prudence, fortitude, justice and temperance. A wise man is he who pays attention in his every gesture so that what he is living can bring all the good; and he does nothing so that an evil can happen to him because of a misplaced gesture, a badly uttered word and a feeling expressed incorrectly. Prudence also gives you the government of your word, for many times anger explodes with a word and anger can also get to blasphemy, in which case we fall into mortal sin. If you ask the Lord that to give you the virtue of prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude you will always govern your gestures. But, here that constant, continuous, uninterrupted prayer is necessary, because you need these four virtues to rule your life. So much so that these virtues are called cardinal because they are the four cornerstones of our spiritual journey: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.
Q. What is the cause of wrath?
A. The cause of wrath, many times, is physical tiredness. When you are physically tired, you are more inclined to lose wisdom and get in aimless wrath. The other cause is non government of ourselves. Believing, erroneously, that we must not govern ourselves. While, it is the duty for a man or a woman to govern themselves. Because it is the obligation that belongs to man, created by God in his image and likeness, to govern his life. Our feelings, our passions, our emotions must always be under the control of our spirit and that is why we need this wisdom which is a gift of the Holy Spirit. As well as it is also necessary that we know ourselves. You know that if you are physically tired, you no longer have the government of your thoughts, your actions and you can explode. What can you do in these moments? You must seek that necessary physical balance to be able to rule your mind and your heart. Besides, it is customary saying: mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body). Body and soul are not mutually exclusive and you cannot have a holy soul and a not holy body. You cannot put stress on the body, and then claim that it obeys the soul, because it cannot do it. You have to have that highest wisdom to balance the forces well. We must convince us that we cannot do what we always want, with our body. We cannot use it as we want, because the body has its own laws and these laws must be observed. The proper rest, proper nourishment, balance between work and rest. The Lord has set out for man a formidable balance: he made him day and night. He made him the week with six days and the seventh. This is all a law of balance. So that the day you work and at night you rest. Then you can govern yourself. Six days you work and Sunday is the Lord’s, you live it in a different way, without worry, and then you can govern yourself. But if you do not do this, because you live in disorder, you no longer have the government of your soul and not even the government of your body, because body, soul and spirit always work in a wonderful harmony. A disordered life leads to non self-government, while a well-ordered life leads to self-government. Why? Because order is already government.
D. Can you spiritually kill a person with wrath?
R. The principle that I gave you at the beginning, reminding you St. Paul, sounds like this: “In wrath do not sin” (“Be angry but do not sin”, Eph 4:26). When you have a moment of wrath, are you able to control your words? What happens if you are not able to control your own words? All of your inner world explodes out and you can say hurtful things on the other, you can say also heavy, serious words on the other, which kill the other in his sensitivity, his heart, his desires and his thoughts. There is a maxim that says: “silence is always golden.” No one ever regretted not having spoken, while we often repent for saying some words. If we do not have the government of the word, in the wrath we can bring out a lava of evil on the other, that it is our thinking, our desire but that it then hurts very badly. We must be careful to ensure that even if I have a moment of wrath, what is in my heart does not come out, because the other must not know your heart or your soul. They belong to you. You can also have a thought, but the other does not have to know it, because a thought can come to anyone. Your must keep your conscience hidden, secret. Then, the relationships must be made with love, with sincerity and in peace. We are all imperfect; you do not find one person in this world that can regard himself to be perfect, we are all in the making, we are all called to go beyond. If you want to say a bad word to a person you can say a lot, but to what avail? To nothing. But in the wrath we say some words that later can no longer be collected and they destroy us and destroy relationships. We must prevent this from happening. So that in wrath you can also kill a person spiritually, and many times, in a fit of wrath just and holy relations are broken, and then enmities are also created, “You told me this! You accused me of this! You think I am this.” So the friendship dies. Often, you are no longer able to recover it.
Q. How do you become meek and what does “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” mean?
A. Meekness is a special virtue, because it is linked to justice. Meekness and justice go together. In the Old Testament, it is not meekness that gives you possession of the earth, justice gives it to you. Justice is always remaining in God’s will. You stay in the will of God! The Lord protects you, blesses you, guards you, saves you, raises you and heals you. Consider Christ. Jesus Christ remained righteous on the cross, because he committed no sin. Staying righteous, He died. But for how long did the Lord leave him in the tomb? For about forty hours. After the Lord raised him, gave him an immortal life, gave him a spiritual body, so that today Christ exceeds those narrow confines he had in his body of flesh and he is a universal body, a glorious body and a body light. Think that the fruit of the righteousness of Christ is the Eucharist. Christ can be with his body in all the consecrated hosts of this world, thanks to the resurrection, thanks to the gift of a spiritual body. So that the Body of Christ does not get multiplied; it is, for everyone, always, the same exact body. This is the fruit of righteousness, because Christ remained in God’s will. If you stay in the will of God, you will possess the earth, you will reign forever, even if apparently you live a moment of non-government of the earth, because the others are ruling you. Let us leave Christ and pass to another example: Joseph was first sold by his brothers due to envy and then he was put in prison by Potiphar for libel because his wife accused him of seduction (cf. Gen 37.39ss). He remained in perfect justice, never wavered, and the Lord made him viceroy, nearly a Pharaoh, in Egypt because the whole of Egypt was in his hands, because the Pharaoh entrusted it to him. This was for in his righteousness, for his meekness, because he never responded to evil with evil. And when his brothers, after his father died, said to Joseph not to take revenge on them, Joseph answered them that he could not take revenge because it was the Lord the one to use them to send him ahead to prepare a good future for all (cf. 50 0.15 to 21). What a vision of faith this man had! He, sold, imprisoned, remained in his justice and what does he think? He thinks that the Lord has done all this for the greater good of his people. It is not a little. This is great. Here is why it is necessary that we always remain in justice, never doing evil to anyone. Whatever happens to you. Because God, after gives you back what the other takes away from you. I do not know if you remember the prophet Habakkuk, who is a formidable and great prophet. Habakkuk is a prophet who complains to God that things went wrong (1:1 ff). and he accuses him of being a spectator, while the righteous succumbs. Think of Christ, on the cross amid torments, all that world that sells Christ and treats him like a rag, even worse than a rag. And what does the Father do from heaven: he seems to be a spectator. But the Father is not a spectator! He is one that looks at your justice: “Let us see how much this one is capable of being righteous.” Once the Father in heaven has tried your righteousness, he intervenes and raises you to new life. That is why Habakkuk says: “Succumbs one who has no right mind but the righteous shall live by his faith” (2:4). Here is the beatitude “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” What does the Lord ask you? You always remain in your righteousness. Always! Then I will do the rest. Always! Here is why we cannot be afraid of evil, because evil is used to test our righteousness. We must fear to do evil, but not to be subjected to it. We must fear to do evil, because if we did it God can no longer give us the earth. But, if I stay in his justice, I remain in his truth, I remain in the observance of his commandments, and I do no evil to anyone, the Lord will intervene in my life and will give me his reward, in time and in eternity. This is the holy principle of the action of the Lord.
Q. Where does the journey of spiritual ascent to acquire meekness begin from? And then: sometimes fits of wrath may be dictated by malfunction or sudden hormonal changes (there are judgments in which an attenuation of the penalty for murders or attempted murders is attested). So much for the criminal aspect! Can there be an attenuation of the penalty from the moral point of view?
A. When we speak of the government that man must have on himself, we assert the need for man to known himself. You can have a thoughtless fit of wrath: once! But having had it, you can question yourself what it came out from. Because man is obliged to know himself, to know his reactions, to know his feelings and to know the way of relating with others. This is important. Because if this happens a first time, then, you can consider: “it happened now, I did not know myself in this respect.” But if you know that it is your way of being, you have to take measures. Man is also obliged to have recourse to medicine, to cure his body. This is must for everyone. So that if you do not know it you do not sin, but if you know it you sin. I will give you an example from Scripture. Scripture says that you have a capricious ox, that it uses the horns and you did not know it, in that case you are not responsible for what the ox has done; but if you have an ox that you know it can hurt a person and you do not keep it at bay, then you are responsible. You knew and you did nothing. As in the case of a drunkard who puts himself to drive. You know that if you get drunk, you no longer have the government of yourself. And you cannot say I did not know it. You must necessarily know it, because you have to know some things, because they are a science of themselves. That is why you need a formation, to show man what the fruits of his actions are. What the actions man produce. These things are also to be taught to form man well. In this case you have an attenuation or even a liability, if you have not done all that was in your power to do so that an accident did not happen. In Scripture, the correction is required! Today, we no longer correct, letting everything to go as it was. The obligation stems from the fact that if you do not correct the person you know to act in the wrong way, you too become responsible for his faults. We also have a direct responsibility for the actions of our brother. That is why it is important to let yourself be helped by the science to be able to govern ourselves, through those aids that science can give us. Psychological, psychiatric, medical sciences and all the other sciences that can help us to govern ourselves, for Scripture says that there are cases in which the Lord has placed healing in the hands of doctors, and we must let ourselves be helped (cf. Sir 38.1 to 15). So that, there is an unknown movement and a known movement. And in this second case, the second time is not like the first. We have to be very careful, because we are responsible for all actions we do. Then, that responsibility is smaller or greater, minor or major, God and your conscience are the ones to establish this. We cannot intervene, we do not know what has moved the heart inside to do that particular thing. It is important for you to know this responsibility we have in government, ante-factum, of ourselves.
Q. If vices can be overcome with the grace of God and with our will, how do we go about becoming men of good will to want to commit ourselves to acquire virtues?
A. We can solve the problem in a very simple manner. You must have in your heart two principles of action. The first principle is to always transcend yourself. I say: “The way I am, I am not pleasing to the Lord.” So that I must transcend myself, I have to go beyond, for all the time that God gives us on earth is to carry out our journey of perfection and conversion. Do we all have this truth in our heart? Do we have this desire for growth? If we do not have it let us put it in the heart. I have to grow. This was the principle of Jesus Christ. Jesus grew every day in age, wisdom and grace. He grew in his body, grew in his spirit and grew in his soul. It is possible that I who want to imitate Christ do not have this desire of growth in my heart. I need to have it. This is why every day I have to see myself imperfect. I have not yet reached perfection! And this desire must go until the last moment of our lives. In a catechesis, the other evening I reported what St. Francis said in the evening of life when by now he was dying: “Let us start today because until now we have not done anything.” From where were this consciousness and this desire born in him. From the absolute perfection of God. He contemplated God, saw his utmost holiness and always saw himself missing. But we are always missing. When Isaiah was in the temple and saw the holiness of God, the glory of Heaven he said: “I am unclean, I am a sinner.” Peter said the same thing, when he saw the holiness of Christ that told him to cast the net on the right side and he would have found: “Depart from me, a sinner.” Do we have this desire of growth in our heart? If we do then we enter into the daily growth, which takes place by first removing what is grave. One starts by removing mortal sins first, and therefore he has to start from keeping the commandments. Let us start from there. Then you we pass to venial sins: words, deeds and omissions; small words, small works, small omissions. Then we move to a perfect growth in the will of God, so that you no longer need to free yourself from sin, you need to accomplish every day all the will of God at the height of its potentiality. You can do this, letting yourself be helped by the prayer. Anything that you want to be you have to ask God every day in prayer. “Lord, I miss this. I miss this other thing. You will help me and I will fulfill.” Then, you must have a life of uninterrupted prayer. Not that you must stand to pray from morning to night. This is not uninterrupted prayer. But every moment of your life you have to have the spirit in heaven to ask the Lord what you are missing at that time: “Lord now I am missing a virtue, now I am missing a thought, a decision, a bit of good will, a little energy, a little gentleness, today I am lacking and I draw from you.” This supernatural relationship is necessary to our lives, otherwise we fall. The Christian is one who has the heart eternally fixed in Christ, in the heavenly Father, in the Holy Spirit, in the Virgin Mary and asks for everything in order to achieve a good and even holy perfection.
Q. What relationship is there between correction and meekness?
A. Meekness is the virtue through which you always answer evil with good. What St. Paul claimed and that you find in Romans 12: “always overcome evil with the good.” The correction belongs to the virtue of charity. Charity is a spiritual or material aid that you give to your brother, so that he can live well before God, before himself and before men. The fraternal correction helps you or the other find the way of peace because he finds the way of grace before God and men. One must always do the fraternal correction with love, with charity, gently, never harshly. harshness does not belong to us. While a little patience, a little diligence, a little charity helps us live a holy moment with our brothers, even in a difficult relationship; because not all welcome fraternal correction. However, if one of us is of good will, he can say to the other: “Help me find my flaws, see what I do not see, so I correct myself and become more kind toward you and the others.” Formerly, in ascetics these things were recommended: the mutual correction, help one another discover and find defects. But it should not be the other the one to tell us the flaws, but we should be the ones to ask them. This can be done in friendship. In the journey together it can also be done. But without telling them in church. These are private matters and are not certainly said publicly. But we must help each other. In love we must help and support each other. In love, the other lets himself be said certain things because we love and he wants to be loved by God in a strong, true and holy way.
Q. Sometimes due to an impulsive temper one is considered to be wrathful. What to do so that the other does not perceive that we are not angry towards him, but it is only our impulsive nature?
A. The problem is never of the other. The problem is ours, who must always govern our actions. The other does not have to think. It is we who must not make him think. We are the ones who need to help him to have a good concept of us. This would be nice. Every one of us should help the other person think well, not think evil. However, we sometimes help the other think badly of us, not well. And that we must not do. We are obliged to govern our actions, our lives, feelings, words, so that the other might think well: “This is a good guy. This is a good girl.” The care belongs to us, and not to others. We are obliged to always take care of our image! This is the duty of every man, every woman and every boy: taking care of the own image. As one takes care of the external image, through the embellishment of himself, so must he take care of the spiritual image. It is a duty. As you go to the hairdresser to give a beautiful image of your hair, so it is necessary that you go to the “spiritual hairdresser” so that your soul and your spirit are adorned; so that you can walk properly. The other watching us must have a good esteem of us. Treating the personal self-esteem is not a sin, rather it is an obligation. This is called, with a technical term: blamelessness. And you have to be before God and men. St. Peter recommended Christians to take care of the personal esteem in front of the heathen. St. Paul even recommended that, when they needed to make a bishop, this had to enjoy the esteem before those who are on the outside: not everyone can become a bishop. For taking care of the esteem is needed for the credibility of the Church. It is possible that one does not take care of his esteem and thinks he can do what he wants. A priest must also take care of his esteem, because he must be incisive before all, the ones outside and those inside, and no one must speak ill. This is an obligation for us, for you, for everyone.
Q. Sometimes saying firmly the truth you can arouse the wrath of others. What to do in these cases?
A. When one talks, he needs to know who the other person before him is. The truth must always be told with prudence, with wisdom, with temperance, with fortitude. Now the four virtues always go together. If you have a lizard before you, you can take it with your hands because you know that it cannot do you anything, it is a harmless animal what is before you. But if you find yourself in front of a cobra, you have to be careful how you take it, because it can harm you. When you talk with the other you have to know him. You have to know his reactions, his feelings, his emotions. You need to know everything about him. If you do not know the other, talk in a wise, prudent, shrewd way, and you can say things in an indirect way, because you do not know his reactions. Many times it is preferable not to talk than to break a heart, break a mind, break a spirit and even break a relationship. Sometimes you have to be quiet, be silent, pretending not to have seen. This is called prudence, wisdom, foresight, because you do not know who the other is and you do not know what he could do. So we must always be wise. In the Gospel, Jesus not always told the truth. But he never said a falsehood. Not always he told the truth, because he could say it, he could not speak, he let go and went elsewhere. He could not speak. For had he talked they would have stoned him instantly to death. In the Gospel you find that Jesus sometimes answers by enigmas, not according to the fullness of truth, because the listener was not able to understand. In his passion there is a phrase that recurs: “Jesus was silent,” he did not speak, why? Because in that context you could not talk. We must have this science, and here is the wisdom of God, knowing when we can say one thing and on the contrary when we cannot; when it is right to say and when it is right to be silent. But you must always know the historical situation in which you live. This is important because we also grow among us. In fact, I cannot say what I want, even if it is true, but I must have the prudence to know the times to say that thing. Even Jesus said to his apostles: “I would like to tell you many things, however, you are not able to bear their weight today. Then, tomorrow the Holy Spirit comes and will tell you things.” But the Holy Spirit has a never ending story, until the end of time. So that today the Church says one thing, tomorrow she says another one. You who attend the spirituality of the Apostolic Movement, the Inspirer that talks to you does she perhaps tell you the truth? She exhorts you, advises you something, she encourages you, supports you, but are you able to sustain the truth? No. You have to have time, patience, charity, mercy, pity and compassion. We hope and we go on. This is the journey we have to do. Because many times the truth does not help to live, while charity always does. The Christian always talk with the charity. Because in charity there is always a truth that shines through, and that you can almost catch a glimpse of and fall in love with. Jesus did not speak with the truth from the cross, but with his charity and he saved the world.
Directions for the preparation of the meeting given by Monsignor Costantino Di Bruno:
– 1 Samuel cc. 18-27
– 2 Samuel cc. 15-19
– Book of Proverbs c. 15
– Matthew c. 5 c. 11; cc. 26-27