"Know this, my dear brothers and sisters, everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God." James. 1:19
The first reading for today’s Mass is both challenging and engaging. It takes me back to my younger days when I was learning to deal with conflict and anger. For a long time, I was unaware of my underlying anger. Anger masks itself in many different ways and often appears as on the surface as a virtue or correctness. When someone believes to be justifiably right before God and the world, then such things as dialogue, conversation or consensus building goes out the window. We allow anger to overtake us. Anger happens when we become frustrated and do not get our way. We allow anger to control us when we don’t get our way or someone goes against our will. We let anger dominate us when we believe that we are right and the other party is wrong. All of us are very familiar with anger. It has become our companion, our ever present partner in life. It has the potential to become rage.
So when James says to us in his letter, "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger," we know that he has an insight into our human nature. For we are quick to speak, slow to hear and fast to get angry! When someone says something we do not agree with, we have our answer on the tip of our tongue even before the person finishes speaking. When someone does something to contradict us, our anger becomes visible and sometimes very mean. We are out to destroy the opposition.
St. James did not have to cite too many examples to illustrate his message. The two examples he cites fits us perfectly. We want people to do what we say, while we are excusing our own bad behavior. We are quite capable of destroying another person with our tongue all the while we fail to be loving and compassionate people. If we peer into our past, we will find plenty of examples of the contradictions that make up our lives.
So, let this reading become a moment of conversion for us. Let it be an invitation to look into the way we do things, the way we interact with other people, the way we resolve conflicts, the way we are in relationship with God and with each other.
What a beautiful way James ends this particular passage of his letter: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world." Let us make this our prayer today.
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.