Thursday, June 30, 2011

Did Jesus Get Frustrated?

Q - I was talking to a friend the other day and the question 'Did Jesus ever get frustrated?' came up. Now, my first reaction was to say yes, that he must have felt frustration at times as part of being human but now I'm not so sure. We both agree that Christ felt anger, but my friend puts frustration in a different category and, if I'm understanding her point, seems to see frustration as part of our fallen nature and that if we see Christ as feeling frustrated we are, more or less, down-grading him from the Divine being he is to fit in line of our perceptions on what it means to be human. Or that frustration stems from insecurity which, as he trusted fully in God, Jesus would not have felt.

A - Thanks for the question. It depends on how we define frustration. If frustration is an emotion which comes from some external opposition, then we could say that Jesus did get frustrated.

One principle that might help is to understand that emotions, in and of themselves, are not either morally good or bad. They are morally neutral. It is our reaction to them that is either good or bad.
The Catechism says:
1768 Strong feelings are not decisive for the morality or the holiness of persons; they are simply the inexhaustible reservoir of images and affections in which the moral life is expressed. Passions are morally good when they contribute to a good action, evil in the opposite case. the upright will orders the movements of the senses it appropriates to the good and to beatitude; an evil will succumbs to disordered passions and exacerbates them. Emotions and feelings can be taken up into the virtues or perverted by the vices.
The classic case of seeing Jesus respond to a situation emotionally (yet still morally justified) is in the Temple when He overturns the money changers tables:
"Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those engaged in selling and buying there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And he said to them, "It is written: 'My house shall be a house of prayer,' 12 but you are making it a den of thieves.""
Matt 21: 12-13
I would expect that Jesus was frustrated, angry, and upset by his Father's temple becoming a place of lies, theft, and dishonesty. This is a righteous anger and no sin is committed. In fact, to allow injustice to flourish without fighting against it is the sin here - not the feelings of frustration or anger.

Sometimes we have an understanding of Jesus as too sugary-sweet. As if He skips around with flowers, singing that he would like to buy the world a Coke and world peace. This isn't the case. Christ fought for His justice not just for mercy.

Was Jesus kind? Absolutely. Was Jesus nice? Not all the time - because "nice people" don't get crucified.
"Be angry, and sin not." -Eph 4:26 
I hope this helps.

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