When we look at the life of Our Lord, we often find scenes in which men come to Jesus to ask for healing or help in their physical or spiritual needs. They see that He speaks like somebody with great power. Again and again we see that they take great pains or have to overcome great obstacles to come to Jesus. A well-known example is the incident with the paralyzed man who is let down from a roof by his friends to be able to meet Christ. Or think of the people who wanted to hear Jesus! Very often they came from so far away that they might have died on the way home, if the Apostles had not given them food.
These people should motivate us to great zeal in our faith. We should not forget that the same Jesus, who walked on earth and taught and healed, is with us now and can still work in our life. When thinking about this topic I was not sure if it is really suitable for the so-called "traditional" Catholics. Many are already making a lot of efforts and sacrifices to live the Catholic faith in its fullness. But on the other hand I think we all sometimes lack the necessary zeal. And if not, then a reflection on zeal can at least help us to offer up our sacrifices with more calmness and happiness.
Positive Motivation – the Kingdom of God
Well, the motivation to religious zeal could be drawn from different thoughts. One could, for example, imagine that we are in danger of being from God forever and of losing eternal salvation if we are not on the watch. This may be a motivation, but it has a lot to do with fear, and fear is not exactly the best motivation to change for the better (even tough the Church teaches that contrition out of fear is enough to obtain God's forgiveness). But it is better to be aware of the positive aspect of our faith and the tremendous value of what God wants to give us and what he wants us to become, if we accept this His offer by living the faith.
What is given to us? Christ's main message is: “The Time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1,15). Jesus is often speaking of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God or the kingship of God. That's the new tidings he is bringing – the Kingdom of God. And we are asked and invited to take part in this Kingdom.
But what is this Kingdom of God? Karl Adam writes in his book Jesus Christus: “By Kingdom of God Jesus means the uninterrupted, eternal community with the Father and Himself.” ( Adam Karl, Jesus Christus, Patmos-Verlag Düsseldorf, 1946, S. 154) That is our calling, to live a life in union with God. This communion with God works at first rather inconspicuously in our soul, nearly invisible to the bodily eye. “See, the Kingdom of God is within you,” says Jesus. And this union with God will not necessarily lead you to triumph on earth, because even Jesus said to Pilate, that His Kingdom is not of this world.
The supernatural view
We have to develop a view for the supernatural in order to recognize and appreciate the Kingdom of God. That is a view which goes beyond the natural, the purely material things. If we don't have this view we will always be caught in the material world and we will never see more than what we can see with our bodily eyes. Jesus once made an interesting comment which might surprise us at first sight. When a royal official came and asked Him to come and heal his son, Jesus answered: “Unless you see signs and wonders, you do not believe” (John 4:46ff). Apparently, there is a faith without miracles which is greater than the one that is based on miracles – i.e. sensible signs – but is nevertheless no blind faith but true knowledge. Jesus' rebuke is aimed at all men whose faith depends only on what they see or hear, the people who are indifferent and are shocked only when something exceptional hits their senses.
Liberation from Sin
But in order to partake in the Kingdom of God we have to be freed from the slavery of sin. Also, by this thought – that our faith means liberation – our zeal can be strengthened. St. Paul wrote in one of his letters: „...rendering thanks to the Father, who has made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have our redemption, the remission of our sins" (Col. 1:12ff). We were in the kingdom of darkness, but Jesus took us and brought us into the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of light. To achieve it, He atoned for our sins through His Blood.
Today, the evil in the world is down-played. But the more experience we have in life, the more we will see that the world is in reality a kingdom of slavery. Or maybe we once read a good book or watched a good movie in which evil was shown with all its badness and ugliness.
The triune God in us
After being liberated from the slavery of sin we can, as stated above, take part in the Kingdom of God which is the living community with God. Our Lord says very clearly what this community means: “If anyone love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him” (John, 14:23). This is one of the sayings of Jesus which we hear very often, but it seems hard to take it literally. But that's what we should do! If we do that and take the words literally and enter deep into the true sense of this sentence, then we will understand the true meaning of "Kingdom of God" and "taking part in the divine life". When we are in the state of grace, God lives in our soul as a friend who likes to be with us and who talks with us intimately: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If any man listens to my voice and opens the door to me, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.” (Apoc. 3:20).
“When you are in the state of grace, God not only dwells in you: the living God lives in you! He lives His interior life, His trinitarian life. In you lives the Father, who continuously begets His Son and from both the Holy Ghost proceeds without ceasing. Your soul is a miniature Heaven in which the magnificent divine life unfolds, the life of the Most Holy Trinity. But why should the Trinity live inside you without letting you flow into their stream of life? The Father begets His Son in you and gives you His only begotten Son, who is made man for you, to make you His adopted child. Father and Son breathe forth the Holy Ghost und give Him to you in order that He, the aim and the bond of Their love and Their union is also made the bond of your love und your union with Them. The Divine Persons are within you: You receive Them and unite yourself with Their divine life through faith and love. Through faith you believe in Them and through love you unite yourself with Them” ( P. Gabriel a S. Maria Magdalena O.C.D., Geheimnis der Gottesfreundschaft Bd. II, Lins-Verlag, 1958, S. 294).
The Sacraments - supernatural help
If our thoughts led to the recognition of the magnificence of the gifts of our faith we will also understand and esteem the sacraments better. They are the means through which God gives us graces, i.e. supernatural help. He gives us the means to create (baptism), renew (penance/confession) or intensify (the other sacraments, especially Holy Communion) an eternal, supernatural life which even death cannot take from us.
Let us think about these graces when we receive Holy Communion. God gives us a new "dose" of this supernatural life, His divine Life. But not only that. In the Holy Mass we offer, in union with Christ, a sacrifice to God. A pure sacrifice of endless worth. With this sacrifice Christ makes an act of atonement of endless worth and makes reparation for all the evil that is happening in the world. We stand against the advance of the evil empire when we unite ourselves with the sacrifice of Christ, as we are doing something that surpasses the evil through His goodness. Even when we are just two or three people in church we can do something for the sanctification of the whole world. Now we can also understand the words of Padre Pio when he said that the earth could rather exist without the sun than without the Holy Mass.
But where is peace and happiness in my life, some might ask. I am baptized, I am going to Mass every Sunday, receive the sacrament of penenance and I try to do the will of God. Still, I have to deal with problems of every kind and life isn't always easy and happy for me. Well, Jesus did not necessarily promise his followers a pleasant life. He said that the one who wants to follow Him should carry his cross and follow Him in this manner. He was Himself nailed to the cross und said that where the Lord is, there should be the servant also.
But nevertheless Jesus says that He brings freedom and life and something beautiful to men. And the Church, too, knowing very well that the following of Christ does not necessarily mean a pleasant life, considers it an honour to follow Him. So for example on the feast of Christ the King she prays in the postcommunion: "...that we who glory in our service under the banner of Christ the King...." If we still have to carry our crosses it does not mean that we are not at peace with God in ourselves!
Sometimes the reason why we suffer a lot from the hardships of our life may be that we do not yet have the correct order of priorities. If the most important thing in our life is to be at peace with God, it is much easier for us to bear all those unpleasant things and troubles we have to endure like other men, maybe even more than other men, because of our faith. And if we search for the Kingdom of God and His justice first, Christ promised us that all these things (food, clothing, etc.) which, according to Jesus, the gentiles seek (Matt. 6:31ff) will be given to us over and above. Jesus obviously wants to make it possible even for those who are afraid not to have their daily bread, to give themselves fully to Christ and at first not to seek anything else but Him.
Let us try to develop the supernatural view and become conscious of the Kingdom of God. And let us pray to God that He will help us to achieve this view and to attain happiness in the presence of His Kingdom. Let us be inspired by those people who were searching for help from Jesus, by their zeal, by their desire. Look, for example, at the woman suffering from hemorrhage. She did not say one word to Jesus. The only thing she did was to touch His cloak, as she believed that by doing that she would be healed. When she was actually healed, Jesus said that her faith had healed her. We can see that many words are not necessary. The most important thing is that we have in our heart the same desire to be healed as that woman, that we approach Jesus with the same confidence – even though her wish was bodily healing while we are talking here about spiritual help.
Let us be motivated to true zeal by thinking about what God is calling us to – to living in union with Him. Let us hear the words of St. John of the Cross who cries out, moved by the reality of the divine life: "You souls, made and called to such greatness! What are you doing? What are you occupying yourself with?”(John of the Cross, Spiritual Song 39).
Fr. Johannes Heyne