Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall never be hungry, and whoever believes in me shall never be thirsty. Nevertheless, as I said, you refuse to believe, even when you have seen. Yet all those whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me, I shall not turn away. For I have come from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of the One who sent me.
And the will of him who sent me is that I lose nothing of what he has given me, but instead that I raise it up on the last day. This is the will of the Father, that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall live eternal life; and I will raise him up on the last day.”
The word zeal is defined thus in the Collins Dictionary: “fervent or enthusiastic devotion, often extreme or fanatical in nature.“ That definition seems to fit the apostle Paul’s frame of mind before his conversion. (He was then known as Saul). In yesterday’s first reading it is written that, as Stephen was being stoned to death by an angry mob, “the witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul” and that “Saul was there, approving his murder.” In today’s first reading, we learn that “Saul was trying to destroy the Church. He entered house after house and dragged off men and women, and had them put in jail.“ This behavior is obviously that of a man full of zeal for his Jewish faith (which he thinks is being threatened by the Christian faith). It reminds us of our contemporary Muslim extremists who blow themselves up in suicidal car bombs aimed at killing Christians. Is their zeal sincere? It certainly is. Yet like Paul’s their actions are to be strongly condemned—not their hearts, however. We will be surprised one day to discover how many zealots of all stripes ended up in Paradise because, though their cause was evil, their heart was pure.
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