Merriam-Webster’s definition of zeal is: “a strong feeling of interest and enthusiasm that makes someone very eager or determined to do something.” I also like Dictionary.com’s definition: “enthusiastic diligence!” Passion is a perfect synonym for zeal. We, as Christians, are supposed to be zealous about our faith. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we are supposed to be witnesses and bring others to the faith. BUT, unfortunately, I fear that my zealousness can at times push people away. I have always been a zealous person, passionate about my beliefs and very vocal when I feel the need to be. I am also quite rebellious and, at times, obnoxious and in-your-face ….
Recently I prayed Lectio Divina with 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8 … you know… the one that is usually used at wedding:
“If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast,[a] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.”
At times I feel like my zeal for my faith makes me a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal to some people. Sure my Catholic friends (my “choir”) like what I say and do not see what I say/write in a negative way. But others, who are not (the “choir”) see/hear/read me as if I am some obnoxious, crazy, wacky, Christian zealot and even see me as some “holier than thou” jerk. This hurts, because I don’t mean to be that way. Of course, it is hard to “read” people online, in emails, on forums and social media. Things you say can be taken as rude or mean when they were not intended to be that way, so I do blame that medium to an extent. Sigh. I suppose I need to learn how to express myself in a way that is not obnoxious to those who are not card carrying members of the “choir.”
This will be a difficult task for rebellious, passionate me… When a thought comes upon me, or I am passionate about something (especially social justice issues) I need to express myself immediately. I feel at times like the prophet Jeremiah in yesterday’s first reading, “But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.” Jeremiah 20:9. I just have to say it and say it NOW… and out it comes, flying and flailing like a fire breathing dragon … ugh.
But I know, I know… we are called to be loving and kind …even with our zealousness. I need to corral my passion, smooth it out and make it more digestible (?)… As I always say: I am still learning how to be a good Catholic. I need to be patient (ugh) and kind … I need to learn to NOT be envious, boastful, arrogant, rude, irritable, resentful (obnoxious!) … this will all take a lot of hard work for me ~ to remember to “stop, think and control” myself (something I teach my high functioning autistic students at camp)! And I need to pray for God’s help… because Lord knows I cannot do this alone… mercy and grace, please, with an extra helping of GRACE piled high, Lord!
“ For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:11-14
I love being zealous for the Lord…
just teach me how to NOT chase them away, Lord…