Nativity of John the Baptist (June 24, 2018)

Today we celebrate the Birth of John the Baptist. He was noted for his zeal in preparing the way of the Lord. Here are some thoughts of St. Francis de Sales on the value of zeal:

True zeal makes use of anger to help it correct an evil. At the same time, true zeal always honors and respects the dignity of the person being corrected. It never turns the hatred of evil into hatred of the evildoer. Nor does zeal turn charity into raging cruelty.

Anger is used by grace to put into effect the work we are called to do. Yet, if anger makes itself master, it overthrows the authority of reason, and it constricts zeal tempered by holy love. Like a fire that in an instant consumes a solid building, excessive anger destroys the zeal coming from a very good soul. Properly used anger is an aid given by our nature to move us to reason, as well as reflect and make good judgments.

Great saints, who have regulated their emotions through prayer and practicing virtue, can also direct their anger at will and put it out or draw it back as seems good to them. Such was St. John the Baptist who through his zeal suffered a martyrdom of love of God. For the most of us, however, our horse is not so well disciplined that we can make it gallop or come to a stop at will. Thus, we must take care not to needlessly stir up anger within ourselves.

In seeking to develop our spiritual well being, we must not love anything too much, not even virtues, which we can sometimes lose by our misplaced zeal. All God wants is our heart. Zeal is simply ardent love. Yet zeal can be a good or evil love. Since zeal is ardent, impetuous love, it requires prudent direction. True zeal is a child of charity and thus is patient, kind, without hatred and rejoices in the truth. Let us calm our impetuous ardor for truth and goodness by inflaming our zeal with sacred love.

(Adapted from the writings of St. Francis de Sales)