Anger against God
26th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Doug McManaman
Reproduced with Permission

I think I have a lot of patience, but I’ve noticed over the years that there’s one thing I seem to have very little patience for, specifically those people who nurse anger against God for one reason or another. I will often feel anger rising up within me when people tell me they’re angry against God, and that anger tends to render me a little less compassionate than I would otherwise be. I’m not sure if that’s a vice or virtue on my part.

“The Lord’s way is not fair”, is the claim the Lord takes up in the first reading from Ezekiel. But no, it is impossible to accuse God of injustice, as the Scriptures make clear. Rather, most of what we do falls short of justice. Sin is rotten, but for most of our lives we really have no idea just how rotten it is. All of us lack an adequate sense of sin. The more we grow in the knowledge and love of God, however, the more we see how blind and sinful we’ve always been. And as that sense increases, the more we will begin to see just how merciful God is, which moves us to love Him even more. We begin to see what St. Augustine saw in the 4th century, namely, that everything in us that is genuinely good comes from God, while all that is from us is sin and deceit. And possessing that insight is not at all despairing—unless we continue to place our hope in ourselves. Rather, it gives us greater reason to humble ourselves and delight in the Lord’s mercy.

All is gift. Everything we have is pure gift. We can’t earn the state of being brought into existence; for if we don’t exist, we can’t earn anything. God is Goodness Itself, and every good that we enjoy in this life comes ultimately from God. Not only were we given existence and preserved in existence, we’ve been redeemed from sin and saved from the prospect of eternal damnation—if we choose to live in the light of divine grace. God the Son joined a human nature, entered into human suffering, proclaimed the good news of his resurrection, worked miracles and left the world the supernatural doctrine of the New Law, died a horrible death in order to destroy death and to inject our suffering and death with his life. God loved us while we were sinners, says St. Paul.

That’s pure gift, pure grace. And if we cooperate with divine grace, grow in holiness and are blessed enough to be a member of the remnant who will receive eternal life, that too is pure gift, the result of God’s infinite mercy, and not a result of anything we’ve done. That’s why St. Augustine speaks of the gift of perseverance. We have to pray always for the gift of perseverance in faith, hope, and charity, because some people lose these virtues before they die. And the mystery is that if we lose our faith, it is through our own fault, but if we do not lose it but persevere, it is because God preserved us, and that preservation was a pure gift, a grace. Grace is very mysterious. But, in the end, one thing we can be sure of is that all glory and honor are His, and none of it is ours.

Everything is gift. God owes us nothing. He does not owe me an extra day, nor does He owe anyone in my family more time. The first hour of anyone’s life was pure gift, so if my daughter, for example, would have died at 5 years of age, that would certainly be tragic and sorrowful, but there’s no way in the world that I could hold it against God. If He chose from all eternity to give her only 5 years, and those 5 years included the gift of baptism, the graces of faith, hope, and charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life, it’s all bonus. How do I accuse God of doing an injustice? It’s as if I were a billionaire and I decided that I was going to deposit $100,000 to your bank account every month, for no reason, I just want to, I want to see you flourish. But I do let you know that it will, at some point, come to an end. If after 4 or 5 years the money flow stops, there’s no way you can accuse me of injustice. It was all bonus from the beginning.

Anger against others is often understandable and justified, but anger against God is rooted in a kind of arrogance. That arrogance is perhaps excusable, depending on the situation, but it really is rooted in a failure to appreciate the limits of human intelligence. God is all powerful and all knowing and God is Love, without bounds. I am not all powerful, certainly not all knowing, and very sinful. How is it that I think I can give God advice?

The Psalmist, in today’s Responsorial Psalm, assumes the posture of true humility. He says: “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior”.

Man’s glory does not lie in his intelligence. Human intelligence is very slow, very sluggish. The brightest among us are still, relatively speaking, very slow. It has taken centuries for the greatest minds to discover simple mathematical truths, for example, truths that teenagers will learn in the course of a semester. They don’t have to discover them, which would take centuries, but just learn them from their teacher. They have no idea of the labor that went into discovering those simple truths.

Intelligence is not man’s glory; it is the glory of the angels. An angel is an immaterial substance of a rational nature, pure spirit, without any matter or extension whatsoever. Angels do not learn through great labor, because they do not depend on external and internal sensation. They are unencumbered by place and time. The mind of an ordinary angel is inconceivably more brilliant than the most brilliant human being.

But man’s glory lies elsewhere. The clue is in the word ‘human’, from the Latin ‘humous’, which means soil, or dirt. A human is from the soil. We are a unity of matter and spirit, and it is matter that slows down the intellect. Also derived from humous is the word ‘humility’. A humble man knows he is dust and ashes. Our glory lies in humility. We cannot outdo the angels in intelligence, but we can outdo them in humility, if we so desire. .

God became man to show us how to be man. In the second reading today, Scripture says: “Have in you the same attitude that is also in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.

The cross is our glory, as it was Christ’s glory. The cross manifests the glory of his love. The angels cannot take up their cross, they cannot participate in Christ’s humiliation. We can. The more we descend in humility, the greater is our ascent.

It’s a strange thing that there is nothing more difficult for us than humility, but in terms of finding reasons to be humble, nothing is easier. We can always find people who are better than we are—smarter, better looking, more dedicated, have achieved more, are more talented, less sinful perhaps, holier, in better health either physically or mentally, etc. But if we only knew! Delight in that fact! Delight in the fact that others are better, and in that light you become very pleasing to God. You become more glorious, and far more human. The key to greater humanness is greater humility. Pride makes a person ugly and less human. There’s nothing more obnoxious than a proud man. Although we cannot outdo Christ in humility, the more we approach him in humility, the more we approach him in glory. And the greater our approach, the greater will be our own happiness. That’s why Paul says in the second reading: “Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others”.