WE SHOULD SEE to it that our zeal to do the things of God is always animated by charity. Without charity, that zeal would us more harm than good. It would be a zeal that defeats the purpose of serving God.

We are reminded of this danger in the gospel when some of the apostles told Christ to rain fire on those who did not welcome him who was then passing by a certain town on his way to Jerusalem. (cfr. Lk 9,54) Christ had to tell them, “You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save.” (Lk 9,55-56)

When the zeal is not animated by charity, it can only mean that that zeal is not righteous, that it does not channel the zeal of Christ who himself once said, “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12,49) It would be a zeal that would only satisfy one’s own desires. It is a self-righteous zeal that often is marked by bitterness and recklessness.

The zeal that is animated by charity is always marked by patience, understanding, compassion, magnanimity. And while it can connote quickness of action, it is also very much compatible with prudence. While it is clear about its focus or goal, which is the glorification of God and salvation and sanctification of man, it is willing to adapt to the way people are. It is quite versatile.

This aspect of the zeal proper to us is very relevant these days since we are bombarded with so many things and have to contend with so many confusing developments. A proper amount of restraint and moderation is needed if only to study things well and come out with a good action plan.

When we have a charity-animated zeal, we would always end up energized and optimistic in spite of the great effort and sacrifice that may be involved. It would be zeal that is self-perpetuating, since it would be fueled more by the grace of God than by our mere efforts.

We have to be careful with the phenomenon that is called bitter zeal. It is the wrong zeal of intending to do good but discarding the requirements and details of charity. It is Machiavellian in spirit.

Bitter zeal makes a person hasty and reckless in his assessment of things. It makes him fail to consider all angles, to listen to both sides, so to speak. He is prone to imprudence.

Inflammatory, incendiary words are his main weapons. Being belligerent is his style. He relishes in rousing controversies and sowing intrigues. He’s actually not as interested in looking for the objective truth and justice as in carrying out his own personal cause.

He is prone to keeping resentments and to being unable to forget the perceived wrongs done on him. He finds it hard to understand, much less, forgive others in their mistakes. He likes to exact vengeance of the tit-for-tat type, evil for evil.

We have to learn the art of loving with the love of God as shown by Christ on the cross. It is a love that is patient, willing to suffer for the others. It is gratuitously given, even if it is not reciprocated. We have to make sure that we are always burning with the zeal of love! By Fr. Roy Cimagala (EV Mail September 26-October 2, 2022 issue)