We had a good conversation during Mass at our house yesterday. The Gospel reading about Jesus cleansing the temple offered some rich material for reflection. The word that caught my attention in the Gospel story was “zeal”: The disciples of Jesus “recalled the words of Scripture: Zeal for your house will consume me.” Jesus was really outraged when he saw the way things were in the temple. The One who is the living sign of God’s compassion made a whip out of cords and drove out the money changers and others who were selling animals for sacrifice.
In our reflections we talked about why this would have riled Jesus up so much. It must have hit a nerve with him that some people were making money from spiritual practice. The rules of the Jewish religion had become more and more complex. “laying heavy burdens on the people”. There would have been some who couldn’t afford the cost of the animals for ritual sacrifice. They would have been denied the possibility of being brought back into right relationship with God and with the Jewish community. If there was one thing that Jesus didn’t tolerate it was exclusion. He was passionate about welcoming everyone to the table.
It makes me wonder what zeal consumes me? What am I so passionate about that I would risk my reputation, my friendships, my membership in the groups that mean the most in my life? Of what am I so convinced and convicted that I could not NOT act?
On Friday night we watched a PBS Frontline video “Lost in Detention” that was recommended as part of our ongoing congregational study of comprehensive immigration reform. Much of what we saw in the video outraged us. And much of what was documented in the story was not “news” to us, living as we do at the U.S.-Mexico border. We have friends who have been “lost in detention”. We know families who have been split apart because of U.S. immigration policy. We have shared their sense of powerlessness to change it. Someone said, “I think that if people just knew about this and heard about it in church then they would do something. But you never hear about this in church, despite the fact the the bishops have called for immigration reform.” At this point we lack the political will to change this unjust policy.
Does that mean I must just wait for the political will to appear? I know what I know. I have personal experience that makes me responsible. Where is my zeal?
St. Vincent de Paul wrote:
“If God is the fire, zeal is its flame. If love is the sun, then zeal is its ray. Zeal is what is most pure in the love of God…Zeal helps us rise about all sorts of difficulties, not only with the force of reason but also with that of grace. It is our vocation to set people’s hearts ablaze, to do what the Son of God did, who came to light a fire on earth in order to set it ablaze with his love.”
With the force of reason and the force of grace may we have the zeal to do what Jesus did on behalf of the most marginalized and forgotten, however unpopular our actions might be.