Pope at Audience: Reconcile, let go of anger, before the sun sets

At his weekly General Audience, Pope Francis reflects on the sin of wrath, and recalls that while anger can at times be justified, we must guard against it being channeled unjustly, and insists we are called to follow the Lord's example of forgiveness, including actively pursuing reconciliation before the day ends

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Wrath and anger have a tendency to grow out of control, and thus we are called, to actively seek peace and reconciliation…

Pope Francis gave this reminder during his weekly General Audience held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall on Wednesday morning.

Continuing his catechesis series on virtues and vices, the Pope focused this week on the sin of wrath, calling it a particularly “dark vice.”

Wrath, the Pope said, is perhaps the easiest to detect from a physical point of view. “The person dominated by wrath can hardly conceal this impetus: you recognise it by the movements of his body, his aggressiveness, his laboured breathing, his grim and frowning gaze.”

Often targets first offender rather than the guilty

In its most acute manifestation, the Pope noted, anger is a vice “that leaves no respite.”

“If it arises from an injustice suffered or deemed to be so,” the Pope observed, “it is often not unleashed against the guilty party, but against the first offender.”

“There are men,” he acknowledged, “who hold back their anger at work, proving to be calm and compassionate, but once at home they become unbearable for their wives and children.”

Wrath, he acknowledged, pervades our being, robbing our sleep, and causes us to rerun it in our minds. Moreover, he said, it destroys relationships. Lingering resentment and detestation, slowly but surely degenerates relationships, he suggested.

Reconcile before the sun sets

The Apostle Paul, aware of how anger can magnify, the Pope stated, recommended to his Christians “to address the problem at once and seek to reconcile.”

“It is important that everything is dissolved immediately, before the sun sets,” the Holy Father insisted.

“If some misunderstanding may arise during the day, and two people may no longer understand each other, suddenly perceiving themselves to be far apart,” the Pope said, address it and reconcile, so “the night will not be handed over to the devil.”

Otherwise, he observed, wrath will “keep us awake in the dark, brooding over our reasons and unaccountable mistakes that are never ours and always the other’s.”

Forgive us our trespasses

The Pope recalled the ‘Our Father’ prayer’s call to forgiveness.

If forgiveness isn’t practiced, he said, people break away from one another,.

The Pope said that while wrath is a terrible vice, and often at the origin of wars and violence, “not everything that is born of wrath is wrong.” The ancients, he recalled, were well aware that there is an irascible part in us that cannot and must not be denied.

“We are not,” the Holy Father pointed out, “responsible for anger, in its arising, but always in its development.”

Vent anger properly

Sometimes, Pope Francis suggested, it is good to vent anger in the right way.

“If a person never gets angry, if he is not indignant at an injustice, if he does not feel something quivering in his gut at the oppression of a weak person,” the Pope, for instance, recognized, “it would mean that he is not human, and much less a Christian.”

Pope Francis also acknowledged “holy indignation.”

“Jesus knew it several times in His life,” he recalled, marveling that the Lord “never responded to evil with evil,” “but in His soul, felt this feeling and, in the case of the merchants in the Temple, performed a strong and prophetic action, dictated not by anger, but by zeal for the house of the Lord.”

Pope Francis concluded by urging the faithful to seek the help of the Holy Spirit in properly managing their passions, in order to turn them into a tool for the good.