Zeal for Souls
Presence of God – O Jesus, You who gave Yourself without reserve for the salvation of the world, enkindle in my heart an ardent zeal for the salvation of souls.
According to the measure in which the love of God takes possession of our heart, it creates and nourishes in us an ever increasing love for our neighbor; this love, being supernatural, seeks only the supernatural good of our fellow men and thus becomes zeal for the salvation of souls.
If we have little love of God, we shall have little love for souls, and vice versa; if our zeal for souls is weak, this means our love of God is also weak. In fact, how could it be possible to love God sincerely without loving those who are His children, the object of His love, of His care, and of His zeal? Souls are, as it were, God’s treasure; He has created them to His image and likeness by an act of love; and by an even greater act of love He has redeemed them with the Blood of His only-begotten Son. “For God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting” (John 3,16). One who has penetrated the mystery of God’s love for men, cannot remain indifferent to their fate: by the light of faith, he has understood that all that God does in the world is for man’s good and for his eternal happiness. He longs to have some share in this action, knowing that he can do nothing which will be more pleasing to God than to lend his humble collaboration for the salvation of those who are so dear to Him. This was always the ardent desire of the saints, a desire which impelled them to perform heroic acts of generosity to benefit even one soul. St. Teresa of Jesus writes: “This is an inclination given me by Our Lord; and I think He prizes one soul which, by His mercy and through our diligence and prayer, we may have gained for Him, more than all the other services we can render Him” (Foundations 1).
It is true that the primary end of God’s action is His own glory, but He who is infinitely good wills to obtain this glory especially through the salvation and the happiness of His creatures. In fact, nothing exalts His goodness, love, and mercy more than the work of saving souls. Therefore, to love God and His glory means to love souls; it means to work and sacrifice oneself for their salvation.
“O my dear Lord, how much oppressed You are by those to whom You have shown so much good! It seems as though these traitors would send You to the Cross again and that You would have nowhere to lay Your head. My heart cannot conceive this without being sorely distressed!
“O eternal Father! Surely all these scourgings and insults and grievous tortures will not be forgotten. How, then, my Creator, can a heart as loving as Yours endure that an act which was performed by Your Son in order to please You the more and to obey Your commands (for He loved You most deeply, and You commanded Him to love us) should be treated as lightly as the heretics treat the most Holy Sacrament today, destroying His tabernacles and demolishing His churches? Could it be that Your Son failed to do something to please You? Has He not fulfilled everything?… Has this most loving Lamb to pay once more whenever we relapse into sin? Permit it not, my sovereign Lord! Let Thy Majesty be appeased! Look not upon our sins, but upon our redemption by Thy most sacred Son, upon His merits and upon those of His glorious Mother and of all the saints and martyrs who have died for You!
“Alas, Lord, who is it that has dared to make this petition in the name of all?… When this sovereign Judge sees how bold I am, it may well move Him to anger, as would be right and just. But behold, Lord, You are a God of mercy; have mercy upon this poor sinner, this miserable worm who is so bold with You. Behold my desires, my God, and the tears with which I beg this of You; forget my sins, for Your name’s sake, and have pity on all these souls who are being lost, and help Your Church” (Teresa of Jesus Way of Perfection 1-3).
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Art for this post on zeal for souls: Mirror of Teresa of Avila, Peter Paul Rubens, 1615, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.