February 17, 2016

Yes, Pope Francis Lost His Temper. But There's a Difference Between Righteous Anger & Blind Rage

To some in the fourth estate, evidence of Pope Francis' humanity justifies dramatic headlines that are sure to attract readers. During the pontiff's apostolic visit to Mexico, some over zealous admirers in the crowd, started pulling at Francis' cassock. This caused His Holiness to lose his balance and fall on to a wheelchair bound man. The Daily Mail's [UK] article, "Pope Francis loses his cool: Pontiff is filmed shouting at Mexico crowd for tugging him and making him fall on to a disabled man", reflects the tenor of the secular media's coverage. From the Daily Mail:
The Pope has shown a rare sign of anger during his trip to Mexico after an eager crowd tugged his arms and caused him to topple over.
Francis was at a stadium in the western city of Morella on Tuesday greeting fans at an open air mass for young people. 
However, when one eager person pulled at his robe, it caused him to crash down into a wheelchair-bound man.
And although the Pontiff recovered and kissed the man on the head, he did not hide his irritation. ...
After Francis kissed the gentleman on the head, he angrily addressed the crowd saying: "No seas egoísta. Qué te pasó, no seas egoísta", which means "Don't be selfish, don't be selfish." It's no wonder the Holy Father responded this way. Indeed, it is quite understandable. Every loving father must occasionally correct and admonish his children. [In fairness to the crowd, seeing a pope in person evokes tremendous adulation. As a seminarian, I watched a sister in full habit elude a security cordon and slide on her knees in front of St. John Paul II to kiss his ring during his apostolic visit to Baltimore in 1995.] As for Pope Francis' anger, our emotions are morally neutral phenomena. It is how we act in response to them that makes all the difference.

Consider the life of Christ. We know that Jesus was like us in all things except sin. We also know that Jesus, on occasion, grew angry. In one instance in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus began to teach the disciples that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days. Upon hearing this, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. Christ, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter saying, "Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." [Mark 8: 31-33]

Jesus was not soft spoken or gentle in rebuffing Peter. He angrily rejects Peter's notion and reaffirms his determination to do the will of his Father and redeem mankind — even unto death on a cross. Jesus responded so strongly because Peter thought that Jesus, as Christ, should live the life of a King and be served — not suffer and die. Father René Butler's commentary on this passage is enlightening:
Of course it was Peter who had got it all wrong, and Jesus rebuked him back. "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do." This is a very near paraphrase of another text from Isaiah: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways... For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts."
Eventually Peter got it right and, like Jesus, suffered and was rejected and was killed. He carried his cross. Not all Christians were called to follow that path, of course. They were meant to "be" Christ in other ways. 
A second example of Christ's righteous anger can be seen in the Gospel of John. Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace." His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me." [John 2: 13-17]

Christ's zeal for his Father's house consumes him. And for good reason! If anyone should be indignant at the sins of humanity and those making the Temple a den of iniquity it is the creator of the universe himself. Jesus' human emotion of anger is utilized for good; to restore creation and — all of humanity back to God.

This is not to equate Pope Francis' frustration and embarrassment with Christ's holy anger. It is only to say that righteous indignation has its place provided it is dignified and temperate in expression and justified in its end. Curruently, in our post modern world, what passess for civil disobedience is often little more than blind rage. Blind rage is mindless, selfish and destructive. If more of today's angry protesters had had loving fathers occasionally correct and admonish them, perhaps our public discourse would be more virtuous and less vitriolic. As Catholics who are called to selfless discipleship by our heavenly Father, let us act always out of humility and charity in the imitation of Christ.

1 comment :

HPonder said...

I prefer the term "righteous indignation", like the time when our Lord cleansed the temple.