Thursday, August 22, 2013

A lesson from St. Mary on dealing with anger.

On Sunday, Mora Sorial came and spoke at my church's young women's meeting and shared a contemplation on a biblical passage involving our Mother the Theotokos St. Mary.  I also happened to be reading a book on anger, and it struck me that St. Mary dealt with the situation described exactly how the author of the book instructs us to deal with anger.
And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.  When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem.  And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day's journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances.  So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him.  Now so it was that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, "Son, why have You done this to us?  Look, Your father and I have sought you anxiously."  And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"  But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them.  Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these thing in her heart.
(Luke 2:42-51)

Let's take a look at what happened to St. Mary here.  They were returning home from the feast and thought He was with them.  They traveled an ENTIRE day's journey and realized He wasn't with them, so they had to go back, wasting yet another day.  After missing her Son for THREE DAYS, she finds Him and asks Him, "Son, why have You done this to us?  Look, Your father and I have sought you anxiously."

She was missing her Son for three days.  And what does she do?  She does not hide her feelings, but neither does she condemn Him or spank Him or rage at Him.  Rather than assuming He was careless, irresponsible, immature, and ultimately wrong, she communicates and seeks clarity, giving Him the opportunity to respond.  She interacts so utterly respectfully with her TWELVE YEAR OLD SON.

In The Other Side of Love: Handling Anger in a Godly Way, Gary Chapman explains that anger is not inherently sinful.  There are many instances in the Bible where God is angry with His people or other nations, because He is loving, and therefore desires justice.  Our impulse to anger is also guided by justice.  We see an injustice, and anger motivates us to fix it.  But because we are not entirely God-centered, sometimes our anger is self-centered, and instead we become angry (or the whole host of other emotions that come with it: upset, disappointed, resentful, etc.) at a perceived injustice, when in reality the other person really had done nothing morally wrong.  Therefore, to make sure our anger is valid, we must first be honest with ourselves as well as the other person and acknowledge that we are angry ( "I'm not angry, I'm just disappointed." "I'm not angry, I just expect more." "I'm not angry, I just wish I had a better son."), and seek further information to make sure our anger is valid.

That is what St. Mary did.  She acknowledged her anger and was honest with Him about it, but instead of jumping to conclusions automatically, sought to understand the situation better and asked Him "Son, why have You done this to us?"  We must then analyze our options, to see if there is any constructive and loving way of dealing with the situation.  We don't have more of the story, but: "His mother kept all these thing in her heart."  She actively tried to understand, she actively tried to figure out the best way to deal with the situation.

Our mother is the perfect example of how to deal with anger-inducing situations in a godly way. :-)

Happy Feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Virgin Mother St. Mary!

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