10 March 2006

Does God Really Get Angry?

The last post was intended to be a brief introduction to a beautiful quotation. But, alas, I got carried away. Here's the quotation, which was part of the homily at today's Ember Friday Mass.

[The Psalmist says]: "Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, nor reprove me in your rage." (Ps 6.1) And is God swollen with anger, and seething with rage? Far from it, brothers! God is not subjected to passion, nor is he enkindled by anger, nor is he agitated by rage. ...

So the prophet, mindful of human fraility, and aware of his carnal nature, and because he put no trust in hs own merits, fled hastily to be helped by mercy, so that God's judgment in this regard might consist of kindness rather than severity.

"Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger." (Ps 6.1) That is to say: rebuke me, but not in anger; reprove me, but not in rage. Rebuke me as a Father, not as a Judge; reprove me not as Lord, but as a Parent. Rebuke me, not to destroy me, but to reprove me. Reprove me, not to do me in, but to correct me. And why should you do this? "Because I am sick." (Ps 6.2) "Have mercy on me, Lord, because I am sick."

...[T]hat the Lord seethes in anger against him [the sick man], that he flares up in rage is not, not at all the characteristic of a benevolent Creator, but of a very severe Prosecutor. "Heave mercy on me, Lord, since I am sick."


"And you, O Lord, how long?" Be converted, O Lord!" (Ps 6.3-4) [Is this] the way the human being speaks to God, the guilty to the Judge, the condemned to the Prosecutor? "Be converted, O Lord!" The human being sins, and God is the one to be converted? Yes, indeed, my brothers, because according to the prophet, "He himself bears our sins, and suffers for us." (Is 53.4) And blessed John says, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (Jn 1.29) He accepted sin, in order to take away sin, not to possess it. "Be converted, O Lord!" From what? From God into man, from the Lord into a slave, from a Judge into a Father, so that the conversion may show that you are kind, you whose power makes you threatening and frightening.

"Be convered, O Lord, and free my soul" from the depths of hell; "save me on account of your mercy." (Ps 6.5) Not on account of my merit, since distress impairs me, groaning consumes me, tears overwhelm me, anger disturbs me, and the enemy assaults me. But to clarify this, let the very prayer of the prophet be chanted: "Save me on account of your mercy." (St Peter Chrysologus, Sermon 45 [On the Sixth Psalm], The Father of the Church, vol 109.173-176)

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