The love of Christ arouses us, urges us to run, and to fly, lifted on the wings of holy zeal. The man who truly loves God also loves his neighbor. The truly zealous man is also one who loves, but he stands on a higher plane of love so that the more he is inflamed by love, the more urgently zeal drives him on. But if anyone lacks this zeal, then it is evident that love and charity have been extinguished in his heart. The zealous man desires and achieves all great things and he labors strenuously so that God may always be better known, loved and served in this world and in the life to come, for this holy love is without end.
Saint Anthony wrote this about himself and his missionaries but is this not true for anyone who loves God – man, woman, cleric, or lay? The persons who are filled with the love of Christ have wind beneath their wings to do the hard work of serving their family, friends, and neighbors. Have my efforts to reach out and serve others often sputtered and ground to a halt because I tried to do it through my own strength? Perhaps I need a refresher course in the love of Jesus.
The first reading from the Epistle to the Romans assures us that we are not debtors to live according to the flesh. On the contrary, we have received the Spirit of God. We can live in the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh, live a life free of fear, and know God as our Father. A spirit of slavery ultimately cannot motivate me to serve others. It turns me in on myself. We can love others, “lifted on the wings of holy zeal,” when God is Abba and we embrace our inheritance as children of God and joint heirs with Christ. We will suffer before our glorification “with him” but when has love ever been poured out without suffering?
The gospel reading is the story where Jesus heals a woman on the Sabbath and irks those who cannot rejoice that he healed on the Sabbath but only that he healed on the Sabbath. How comical when the leader of the synagogue announces indignantly, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the sabbath day." How does Jesus continue to serve the people in the midst of such hypocrisy? He sees the woman who is ill as a “daughter of Abraham” who has been bound by the Evil One. His heart is enflamed with love for this one who was created to be free. His ministry was lifted on the wings of holy zeal.
Saint Anthony said of his missionaries words which apply to all who strive to imitate Jesus in this great work of love: “Nothing deters him: he rejoices in poverty; he labors strenuously; he welcomes hardships; he laughs off false accusations; he rejoices in anguish.” Inflamed by love, we persevere.
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