An Enlightened Zeal
by Fr. Fio Mascarenhas
'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind' (Mt. 22:37).
Disciples who seek to be conformed to the image of Jesus will find an important guideline in the above words. But it is of paramount importance to notice Jesus' masterly balance of emphasis: anyone who would love God must do so passionately as well as intelligently! This 'great and first commandment' calls for the whole person, for the fullness of human potential to be invested in discipleship. Not just the ability of the heart and soul but vigorous efforts of the mind also are called for, if we really want to build up the Body of Christ and extend God's Kingdom in the world.
The Holy Spirit of God wants to form both our hearts and our minds because, being human, we were created in the image of a God who is both Love and Truth. The Spirit therefore constantly tries to produce in us a similar harmony of Love and Truth. (By Love I mean here a strong attachment or intense devotion to a person or a thing, based on kinship or common interests; by Truth I mean that which is in accord with fundamental, transcendent reality).
The Enemy of God, unceasingly seeks to sow confusion, lies, and discord, because he is a subtle Deceiver. If he finds he cannot prevent a person from acting in Love, he will try at least to subvert that person's action and introduce into it some degree of falseness, perhaps through its exaggeration, or through limiting our vision.
Hence, Christians must pay adequate attention to the full scope of the first commandment, and use both heart and mind with a spirit of faith, as they try to build a truly united, holy and catholic church.
Jesus gave us a great example of personally fulfilling this commandment. In his own person, he combined Truth in all its breadth, with Love in all its depth. His knowledge of men and matters was keen and comprehensive, his compassion for mankind warm and unsurpassed.
But his ability to perfectly fulfil the commandment did not come about facilely - the Scriptures attest how Jesus took pains to learn everything from the Father, by extended daily prayer, even early in the morning or late at night (Mk.1:35), by his insightful searching of the Scriptures (Mt.4:4), by his alert observation of nature (Mk.4:3-8), by great self-discipline and personal suffering (Heb.5:7-8), and by an intense involvement with the problems and daily needs of thousands of people.
The saints too obeyed this great and first commandment, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Saints John and Paul, Augustine and Aquinas, Benedict and Bonaventure, Loyola and Teresa, together with myriads of other holy bishops, priests and lay people in the Church succeeded in obeying Jesus to the point of becoming outstanding in their grasp of Truth and their practice of love (see below: 'Teaching of St.Isidore'). The secret of their personal holiness and of their fruitful service to humanity lay in their vast personal appropriation of the riches of Christ (Truth), and in their warm concern to share these unselfishly with all their fellowmen (Love).
In our own day, John Paul Second gives an inspiring example of 'enlightened zeal'. His countless talks both focus on and utilize the mind and heart in God's service. For example, in Vienna (12/8/83), he pointed out the danger of dichotomizing progress in learning from the demands of Love: 'It is not science and technology as such that threaten mankind, but their disengagement from moral values.'
Again, speaking to Officers of the Italian Air Force, the Pope insisted that whatever can contribute to the enrichment of men's minds is an integral part of the Kingdom of God: 'Draw inspiration from these striking views (from the skies) to cultivate in your hearts the sentiments of the great, the noble, and the beautiful, to dispose your spirits to an ever more generous work, and to educate your minds to peace, to concord, and to brotherhood, knowing well that all you have done down here, sustained by faith, by Christian love, and by human solidarity, will not be lost as something transitory, but will remain and will bear fruit for eternal life' (Rome, 2/4/83).
Because of this kind of leadership, even after almost 2,000 years of formidable spiritual warfare, during which the powers of hell have never stopped seeking to prevail over it, the catholic church is still big, strong and healthy. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Church has succeeded in preserving and strengthening within itself this balance of Truth and Love. The Church's serious involvement in promoting religious and secular learning (the arts, the sciences, culture) and every kind of authentic human development equals its passion for directly fostering holiness of life and conversion to Jesus. A fine example of this is the teaching given by the Second Vatican Council (See below, 'the Council's Teaching').
The Catholic Charismatic Renewal too, happily, has made efforts to preserve such a balance by promoting both study and action. It has actively promoted holiness, conversion, and prayer, but it has not neglected scholarship and other incarnational requirements of human development. For example, in Paris a 'Worker's University' has been started, where evening courses on Scripture, Church History, the Second Vatican Council, etc., are taught. Australia, Canada and India have started residential Catholic Bible colleges which teach Scripture and Tradition, increasing the ability of their students to fulfil 1 Pt. 3:15, 'Always be prepared to make a defence to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you!' Many other countries have ongoing Leaders' Schools, and everywhere there is intense charismatic activity at weekend courses, summer institutes, and through books, magazines and tapes. Truly, the thrust of the Charismatic Renewal is to help people love God - with all their heart, and soul, and mind!
Not infrequently, however, sincere disciples experience great difficulty to reconcile Love with Truth. An intense but uncritical devotion is easy - as is the case with fanatics and some fundamentalists - but this is not genuine, disinterested Love. It is likewise easy to show an extensive but sterile knowledge (such people often slip into legalism, or elitism) but this in no way expresses the beauty of Truth. The result of this for the Body of Christ is usually some loss or hurt, or fragmentation. But to 'walk in the Spirit', and to build with discerning, enlightened zeal, one needs to be concerned always to integrate Love and Truth in one's thinking and acting.
To do so, one always has to accept anew the mystery of the cross in one's personal life. In our work for the Lord as leaders, we sometimes have to sacrifice our own thoughts, insights and plans in order not to hurt the Church. (An example: Two factions are present in a parish, or diocese, or community, or country. One leader says, ' Let the other person change and accept my wisdom, for I am right!' But the other sincerely feels the same with regard to the first! Since both insist on what each believes is right, the division persists, to the detriment of the Church).
In the lives of the saints, however, when faced with a case of disunity like this, Jesus' 'seventy-times-seven' formula (Mt. 18:22) was implemented absolutely, with the help of the Holy Spirit received in prayer. Outstanding personalities in the Church have been silenced unjustly, and they submitted in humility and faith. Their sacrifice later brought great blessings to the Church (and won them heroic sanctity), even more than if they had continued insisting publicly on the Truth with which they were inspired. These great men and women showed that, truly, they were not 'conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewal of their mind...' (Rom.12:2).
Each of us must expect to face similar trials, for 'the disciple is not greater than the master'. When we do so, may the Spirit inspire and empower us to be self-sacrificing, with full confidence that God is still in control! He is building his Church in ways that are not our own, and with a timing that is uniquely his! What he looks for in us (see Is.66:1-2) is a faithful instrument, not an expert advisor; an anointed realist, not a selfish idealist; a humble and childlike servant, not a vain and unmerciful strategist. In harmony with a truly rich Catholic heritage, we must combine at all times Love with Truth, and cheerfully be the servants of a great God who is concerned always for the building up of the whole body of his son.
E-mail this article to a friend
'Scripturally Speaking' copyright © 2004 Fr. Fio Mascarenhas. All rights reserved.