I guess this is a week for zeal. On Wednesday, the Pope's General Audience spoke of St. Boniface as having an "ardent zeal for God" (text at Zenit). Tomorrow, Sunday's Gospel reading for Mass mentions Jesus' own zeal. The meaning of this Gospel reading is one that I have misunderstood for a long time. I hadn't planned to write about it today, but I ended up looking at it a good bit today after a discussion over it last night, so here it is.
This Sunday's Gospel reading for Mass is John 2:13-25, about Jesus' cleansing of the temple. Angered at the money changers at the temple, Jesus told them, "Take these out of here, and stop making my Father's house a marketplace." In John 2:17, we are told that the disciples remembered Psalm 69:9/10, applied in the future tense there to Jesus, "Zeal for your house will consume me." In the Psalm, David prayed, "Because zeal for your house consumes me, I am scorned by those who scorn you."
Different translations give different words for "consume me". The King James Version and the Douay-Rheims both say the "zeal of" your house has "eaten me up." Another translation says "devoured me".
The word "zeal" in Scripture can mean both Godly zeal and jealousy -- both jealousy on God's behalf and jealousy turned against God's people. It is often is used in Scripture for a malicious rage against Christians, as in Acts 5:17-18 (The high priest and those with him were filled with "jealousy" -- the same word as "zeal" in the original text) and Acts 17:5 ("The Jews became jealous . . . and formed a mob", again, the same word in the original language as "zeal").
I Kings 19:14 is the familiar passage in which Elijah says, "I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (RSV) It is the same passage that is used in the Carmelite motto as "With zeal have I been zealous for the Lord God of Hosts", which is just a different translation of the words of Elijah.
I suppose that distinction between jealousy/zeal for God and jealousy toward others could be the beginning of something I could write someday distinguishing the "zeal" of the Carmelite motto from the "passions" against which St. John of the Cross warns. That will have to wait for another day, or another year.
To be "devoured" by jealousy for the Lord of Hosts suggests all of that passionate and self-giving love for God that Pope Benedict XVI wrote about in Deux Caritas Est, 7:
Christ's consuming, jealous love for God's house is completed in the crucifixion, in His giving of Himself completely for the love of God and the love of God's people. That is what makes Psalm 69:9 messianic and prophetic. It is about zeal, and it is also about His being completely consumed by it to the point of acting in love for God without regard to self-interest, and giving of Himself completely. The fulfillment of that zeal for God's house is seen both in Jesus driving the money changers from the temple (warning them against their sins out of love for His Father's house) and also in His dying for their sins.
Here are more commentaries from saints, the popes, and the Catechism, on Christ's zeal for God's house:
Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, March 19, 2006:
Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei on the Sacred Liturgy, 189:
Pope John Paul II, Meeting with Polish Bishops Conference, 1999:
St. Ambrose, On the Duties of the Clergy, Chapter XXX:
St. Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John: