Zeal should be not only enlightened, but also patient and meek. While preserving its ardor, and indeed in order to preserve it, zeal should avoid becoming uselessly irritated against evil, pouring itself out in vain indignation and sermonizing indiscriminately. The Gospel shows us that in the service of the Lord, the Boanerges, or sons of thunder, as James and John were, become meek. Zeal should know how to tolerate certain evils in order to avoid greater ones and not itself turn to bitterness. What is only less good should not be cast aside as evil; the smoking flax should not be extinguished nor the broken reed crushed. We should always remember that Providence permits evil in view of a superior good, which we often do not yet see, but which will shine forth on the last day under the light of eternity.
To be patient and meek, zeal should be disinterested, and that in two ways: by avoiding appropriating to self what belongs only to God and what pertains to others. Some people are zealous for the works of God, but, motivated by unconscious self-seeking, they consider these works too much as their own. . . . When they are less sure of themselves, less persuaded of their importance, and somewhat broken or at least more supple, the Lord will use them as docile instruments. They will then completely forget themselves in the hands of the Savior, who alone knows what is necessary to regenerate souls.
Let us not appropriate what belongs to others. Often we wish to do good, but we desire too greatly that we should do it in our way. We should not wish to do everything, or hinder others from working and being more successful than we are. Let us not be jealous of their success. . . .
He wished to convince particularly the sons of Zebedee, James and John, of this when their mother came to Him and asked for them the first two places in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus said to them: "You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink? They say to Him: We can. He saith to them: My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on My right or left hand, is not Mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by My Father. . . . " Thus our Lord taught the sons of Zebedee to dominate their natural ardor by humility and meekness, in order to transform it into a pure and fruitful supernatural zeal. Similarly He cures us sometimes by rebuffs and trials administered to our self-love and pride. He corrects us thus until we no longer wish to do our work; then, after permitting the lower part of our nature to be broken by events, and when selfishness has been overcome, He makes use of us for His work, the salvation of souls. Then zeal, though it preserves its spiritual ardor, is calm, humble, and meek, like that of Mary and the saints, and nothing can any longer crush it: "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
Such are the qualities of zeal, which is the ardor of charity, an enlightened, patient, meek, disinterested, and truly fruitful ardor that glorifies God, imitates our Lord, snatches souls from evil, and saves them. It is clear that this zeal should exist, that too often it is lacking, and that it is in the normal way of sanctity. But to subsist, it should be kept up by profound prayer, by prayer that is continual and like an almost uninterrupted conversation of the soul with God in perfect docility.
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