Where there is love, there is always zeal, the state of always being driven and bent on pursuing a clear goal. And this was shown by Christ himself, the pattern of our humanity and the savior of our damaged humanity. At one point, he clearly expressed it: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12,49)
We have to understand that if we really are consistent with our Christian identity, we too should have this kind of zeal in carrying out the ultimate purpose of our life in everything that we do. If we are truly Christians and despite the varying conditions of our life and the confusing drama that we may find ourselves in, we would have both zeal and focus, knowing what to do without getting lost along the way.
We have to see to it that we are always burning with the zeal of love. We always have to contend with the danger to fall easily into complacency, lukewarmness, mediocrity. We should always be on the lookout for these perils.
We need to fill our mind and heart with love, and all that love brings—goodness, patience, understanding and compassion, mercy, gratuitous acts of service, generosity and magnanimity.
Yes, there’s effort involved here. Great, tremendous effort, in fact. But all this stands first of all on the ‘terra firma’ that is God’s grace, which is always given to us in abundance if we care to ask and receive it. Nothing human, no matter how well done, would prosper unless it is infused also with God’s grace.
We have to be wary of conforming ourselves, whether openly or subtly, intentionally or mindlessly, to worldly ways, to mere social trends, or to some inertia generated merely physically, hormonally, economically, politically, culturally, historically, etc.
We need to be most aware and sensitive to these dangers which are so common as to be part of what we call normal in life. Let’s train ourselves to smell out their symptoms and their approaches as soon as they arise. And then be quick to resist them.
Aside from zeal, true Christian love has a clear focus, which can be very tricky given the tremendous amount of distractions we are subjected to nowadays. The challenge is how to make God the be-all and end-all of our life.
In this regard, we need to present Christ’s words in a way that would be attractive to the people of today with their peculiar sensitivity and culture. Let’s remember that Christ himself did everything to adapt himself to us to carry out his redemptive mission.
How can we present, for example, the following words of Christ to the people of today without scaring them: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you?” (Mt 6,33)
Or when he said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it?” (Mt 13,45)
Or when St. Paul said: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God?” (1 Cor 10,31)
It’s not an easy task. One really has to be truly inspired by the Holy Spirit to be able to make these words hit a chord in people’s hearts. At the moment, what can come to mind are some words of Pope Francis when he said to the effect that priests should be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”*