As they witnessed their Master energetically cleansing the Temple in Jerusalem, St. John remarks that the disciples remembered it was written, ZEAL for Your house consumes me. John 2:17, Ps. 69:9 Displays of ZEAL were not foreign to the Jewish people. Let everyone who is zealous for the Law and stands by the covenant follow me was the rallying cry of the Maccabees in their battle to preserve their nation's religious identity. Jewish resistance to the Roman occupation gave birth to a group of freedom fighters known as "the Zealots."
Yet Jesus' disciples, watching Him drive out the animals and turn over the money changers' tables, sensed that there was something essentially different. ZEAL consumed HIM. It left no one harmed and nothing permanently damaged. The ZEAL of Jesus for His Father's glory compelled Him to act — until it completely consumed Him on the hill of Calvary.
So extremely zealous was [Saul of Tarsus] for the traditions of [his] fathers that he persecuted the Church of God violently and tried to destroy it.
Thirteenth century Francis of Assisi took the Apostle's admonition to heart — and the world has never been the same! From the moment the merchant's son understood that he was to live according to the holy Gospel until he lay on his deathbed proclaiming let us begin, ZEAL was the hallmark of Francis' life with Christ. Everyone he encountered was touched by the flame of hisZEAL which, like his Master, harmed no one and left nothing permanently damaged. The flame of ZEAL simply consumed Francis, and shed the light of God's saving love all around him.
Every follower of Christ is called to be a flame of ZEAL, inflamed with that supernatural strength which springs from our awareness of Christ's redemptive work. St. Francis shows us that godly ZEAL, Christ-like ZEAL, is the fruit of prayer. An ancient Franciscan antiphon confirms the lesson: taught what he should do by his great ZEAL for prayer, Francis sought not to live for himself alone, but wished to do good for others. It was in prayer that Francis caught, kept and nourished the flame which is ZEAL. And it is in prayer that we too will find the fire of holy ZEAL kindled and nourished.
Why are you here? the Lord asked Elijah on Mount Horeb. I have been zealous for the Lord of hosts! the prophet replied. 1 Kings 19:10 If we allow holy ZEAL to consume our selfishness and self-centeredness, this can be our reply too as we ascend the Lord's holy mountain. ZEAL does not only consume the believer within; it also conquers the forces of darkness and evil without with the light of love and the power of good. It helps others to chart their course to Christ, to CONSIDER HIM who, consumed by ZEAL for the temple of God which is every human soul, gave His life for us. And thus, with ZEAL aflame, we together love and work, pray and suffer, live and die for the glory of our great and merciful God.