Lenten Vespers, Week 3

Sister Diane McSherry preaching at vespers
Sister Diane McSherry, Dominican Sister of Sparkill, preaching at Vespers for the third week of Lent.

Make a Change

Do you recall a time in your life when you were treated unfairly, and you expressed your anger in an uncharacteristic way? Maybe you kicked the door or threw your phone. You may have fantasized getting revenge the way the character Evelyn Couch did in the 1991 movie, Fried Green Tomatoes. She gleefully shouted, ‘TOWANDA!’ as she smashed into the car belonging to the driver who swiped the parking spot she had been waiting for. However you expressed your anger, your motivation was probably to change an injustice.

In today’s Gospel story, Jesus expresses his anger in an atypical way when he makes a whip to drive out the merchants from the Temple area. He spills the coins of the money changers, overturns their tables, and says to them, “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

Why did Jesus react this way?

Because people were dishonoring his Father by misusing the Temple - forgetting that the Temple was for worship and not for conducting unfair business. Jesus’ anger got everyone’s attention – the money changers, the people who were cheated, and the spectators. They witnessed Jesus defending his Father’s house and standing up against injustice from the dishonest merchants. We call the kind of anger Jesus exhibited in this Gospel story, “The Constructive Anger of Jesus.” (Fr. George Smiga, Give Us This Day, March 2024)

Constructive anger channels our actions to improve a situation or to prevent the action that caused the anger from happening again. You may recall the 2000 movie Erin Brockovich, the true story about an environmental activist. She was instrumental in building a case against a giant corporation involving groundwater contamination in Hinckley, California. Brockovich became a whistleblower who worked tirelessly to make things right for the people of Hinckley. Her actions inspired others to act, resulting in the people of Hinckley receiving a large financial settlement from the company that contaminated their drinking water.

We know of other individuals who have demonstrated constructive anger to work for change. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, Susan B. Anthony, Dorothy Day, and lately, Greta Thunberg are activists who come to mind. They got angry enough to take a stand, went to work, and inspired people to join them in their efforts to work for justice.

Recently, I asked members of the Albertus Magnus High School Preaching Team to share an example of constructive anger in our society today. One student mentioned the environmental crisis. She shared that people are getting educated about climate change and channeling their anger at government officials, pushing them to enact legislation to protect our planet.

Another student mentioned the killing of innocent people in the wars between Israel and Hamas and Ukraine and Russia. She noted the response of the Dominican Sisters and the physicians who have traveled to these countries to assist the refugees and the injured. She wrote, “Even though these wars don’t seem to have an end, these individuals are bringing Jesus’ light into the darkness.”

We have heard the saying, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” Sisters and Associates in our Congregation continue to engage in initiatives that seek to respond to injustice by bringing about change. Climate justice, gun violence, human trafficking, migration, and food insecurity are societal concerns that have captured our attention and prompted us to act.

Pope Francis has said, “If you want your world to change, sometimes you have to act out of character.” What change in our world would you like to see that invites you to respond in an uncharacteristically bold way?

Go ahead… have that TOWANDA moment… and strive to make that change!

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