Saturday, August 21, 2010

Concerning Zeal - Part Three

Our exploration of Christian Zeal
sallys forth with this third installment
(here are links to Part One and Part Two).
In the New Testament, Christian zeal can be best understood by examining Saint Paul's writings.  Saint Paul was a man filled with zeal for God — both before and after his conversion to faith in Jesus as the Christ promised by God.
            In the time of Our Lord Jesus and Saint Paul, "zeal" furnished the political party name for a staunch and pernicious Jewish patriotism which repeatedly bedeviled the Roman Empire's attempts to dominate Palestine. They were labeled "Zealots."
            Saint Paul, while not a Zealot party member, adapted the label of "zealot" to himself.  His unenlightened zeal for God led him to persecute the infant Church (Philippians 3:6; Acts 8:3; 22:3-21; 23:6; 26:4-23).  To describe himself, Saint Paul converted the meaning of "zealot" just as he converted the quality of zeal in himself.  He gave zeal its proper force and aim after encountering the Crucified and Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-30).  His sorrow over his spiritual blindness in persecuting those who professed faith in the Lord Jesus, led Saint Paul to repentance and a transformed zeal for God. Paul Of Tarsus and his zeal were both now in Christ.  Saint Paul's experience of graced sorrow for sins led  to a transformed zeal for God: namely, zeal-for-God-in-Christ!
            From that moment of his conversion, Saint Paul called all people to the only zeal which is true — zeal for Christ's sake, who Himself was totally, unstoppably zealous for God:
John 2:17: Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves,  as well as the money-changers seated there.  He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables,  and to those who sold doves he said, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace."  His disciples recalled the words of scripture, "Zeal for your house will consume me."

            For Saint Paul, zeal is a necessary expression of the life of the Christian community.  Zeal determines the community's ethical behavior and spiritual growth.  This Christian zeal is intimately tied to faith in Our Lord Jesus.  Such zeal for our Lord Jesus is a gift from God which each Christian must develop:
Philippians 3:2-21:  Beware of the dogs! Beware of the evil workers! Beware of the mutilation! For we are the circumcision, we who worship through the Spirit of God, who boast in Christ Jesus and do not put our confidence in flesh, although I myself have grounds for confidence even in the flesh.  If anyone else thinks he can be confident in flesh, all the more can I.  Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee,  in zeal I persecuted the church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.  (But) whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.  More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and (the) sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ (Jesus). Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead,  I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God's upward calling, in Christ Jesus.  Let us, then, who are "perfectly mature" adopt this attitude. And if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you. 
Saint Paul called Christians to greater and greater zeal.  He praised such zeal being put into action, because Christian zeal put into action is the underlying foundation of Christian living (Colossians 3:23-24).  Thus we read in his Epistles:
  • Saint Paul's exasperated reminder to the Galatians of their waning missionary zeal (Galatians 3:1-5, 4:15-18);
  • His calling the Corinthians to earnestly (that is, zealously) desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1,12,39), for it is the Spirit who energizes Christians' zeal; 
  • That all are expected to give themselves completely to Christ (Romans 12:11)
  • That the example of this zeal can prove contagious (2 Corinthians 8:7-18)
What is the visible proof that a Christian's zeal is authentic and bearing fruit for the Lord? Saint Paul says that the power of an intense Christian zeal will readily be seen in:
  • In the common effort to maintain the unity of the community (Ephesians 4:3);
  • In aiding other Christians and Christian communities (2 Corinthians 7:7,11f; 2 Corinthians 9:2);
  • And in the leadership of the Church (Romans 12:8).
But, watch out, Academicians!  Do not fool yourselves about the tightrope walk which our zeal requires us to accomplish! Because, all of these expressions of Christian zeal, like other forms of human zeal, can be perverted.  Saint Paul adamantly states that zealous activities, to be truly zealous -- truly in Christ and not disguised forms of selfish ambition or jealousy -- must issue from a love that is free of selfishness and envy (Romans 12:3-21).

To Be Continued ...

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Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
Take a moment and visit the MOSJ website.