Meditation 11 - The Zeal and Desire of the Heart of Jesus of Nazareth, Another Source of Its Sufferings

The burning zeal which secretly consumed Him, the ardent desire which, as a compressed fire, burnt within His Soul, are the next sources of sorrow in the Sacred Heart of the Divine Solitary which we must consider.

"The zeal of Thy house hath eaten Me up" had been foretold of Him ages before, and with His own sacred lips He had said, in alluding to the Passion by which He was to redeem the world: "I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!" The latter words reveal to ns the long interior penance endured by Him until the time at length arrived, when He might give vent, as it were, to the zeal of His Heart by delivering Himself up to the outward sufferings for which He thirsted. It may be asked. Why did He not shorten the time and accomplish at once the work He so ardently anticipated? The answer is that, had He done so, we should have lost the example of the beautiful virtues which His Hidden Life affords us. He would, moreover, have shrunk from one of the most painful trials of His existence on this earth. For surely we may call it the most painful, at least from the point of view in which we are now considering it. This the generosity of His love forebade. Lastly - His "time was not yet come," and He, who came to render homage to the Sovereign Wisdom of God, would fulfill with a perfect obedience the Eternal Decrees.

He had made Himself subject to all the states, all the exigencies of the human nature which He had assumed; and consequently, despite the burning ardour of His desires, the active energy of the zeal which stirred His Sacred Heart, He remained there in Nazareth, pursuing, day after day, the humble labours incident to the state of life which He had chosen.

The intensity of His interior suffering at this period can only be measured by the fervour of His zeal, and by the clear knowledge which He possessed of the condition of the world at that time. He saw the multitudes even then, "distressed, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd," and He longed to conduct them into the pastures of eternal life - to the fountains of living water which they would find in His own Sacred Heart. He saw how great was the harvest of souls to be garnered, and He longed to go forth and to gather the sheaves into His Father's house. He beheld the doctors of the Law teaching the people, "the blind leading the blind," and how did He not desire to go and speak to them Himself of that Father who so loved them that He had given Him, His only-begotten Son, to redeem them. How did not His Heart burn within Him to go and tell them of the Kingdom that was so near them, to preach to them the words, to perform the works, for which His Father sent Him. He saw and knew and felt all this, and His Heart was consumed within Him with the ardour of His zeal, which seemed to increase in intensity by the very reason of its compression.

Thus we may believe that the sufferings of the Heart of Jesus were, if possible, more intense during the years of His Hidden Life than even during His Passion, since, in addition to the knowledge which formed the primary source of His sorrow, there was here the inability (in consequence of the restraint He had voluntarily placed upon Himself) to manifest His zeal in the way His human Heart would have prompted.

The love of God produces the same effects in kind within the hearts of His faithful ones, as in that of His Divine Son. Love is the source of zeal for the Divine glory, and in proportion to the strength of that zeal and of that love will be the capacity for suffering. What is the first impulse of the human heart when it knows that some one whom it loves, and whose sorrows it might relieve, is suffering; when it is aware of some good to be effected or of some danger to be avoided, in behalf of the object beloved? Does it not feel impelled to fly at once and place all its energies at the service of its friend? And does it not suffer torture when withheld from hastening to his assistance? Of the same nature is that sentiment which the love of God and zeal for His glory inspires in generous, ardent hearts - a sentiment which, under some circumstances, becomes to them a source of keenest suffering, even as it was to the Heart of Jesus during His Hidden Life. He has carried our griefs," and so this form of inward suffering amongst the rest, and therefore it is in the school of His Sacred Heart that we shall learn to sanctify it. If we are faithful disciples of the Divine Solitary, there will be no restless pining for works external to our vocation, no chafing under pressure of obedience which restrains our zeal; but our love and our ardour will find expression in fervent prayer and in the patient endurance of that inward pain which exterior circumstances have caused.

As zeal, springing from the love of God, is one of the most generous sentiments of the human heart, and most conducive to the attainment of the highest sanctity, so, on the other hand, is it all-important to watch lest the enemy of souls perverts this instrument of good into a subtle poison by tempting us to restlessness of mind, to the formation of chimerical projects, to the desire of performing works foreign to our state and beyond our capacity, and finally perhaps, if we are in Religion, to formal disobedience and ultimate loss of vocation. For a protection against so deceptive a snare, let us consider the Divine Labourer in the workshop of Nazareth. What heart was ever consumed with zeal equal to His? Who can dare to complain of the ordinances of God's providence, and of the restraints of obedience, if he has the example of Jesus of Nazareth before his eyes?

Those long hidden years then, during which the manifestation of our Lord's zeal was restrained within His Sacred Heart, were they unavailable for the Mission He had come to fulfill? Very far from this. The desires which consumed Him were, from their very vehemence, a secret agony, amidst which arose to the Father's bosom burning prayers and supplications, gathering force from the anguish of love and desire which prompted them, and gaining intensity from the very fact that they were the only outlet for the pent-up zeal which devoured Him.

In the stillness of those prayers, during which we contemplate the Divine Victim panting, even whilst yet at Nazareth, for the hour when He might go forth "as a giant to run in the way" destined for Him, and might consummate the final sacrifice, we seem to hear Him, in the all-holy impatience of His Sacred Heart, sighing out His complaint into His Father's ear - a complaint which was in itself a prayer of utmost power - "I thirst," for the baptism of blood, "and how am I straitened until it be accomplished." "My life is consumed with grief, and My years in sighs.... My tears have become My food day and night, for they who violate the law have become mighty - they go on from crime to crime."

What a model this for souls in whom the love of God has been enkindled, and who ardently desire to labour for His glory. Those amongst them who, by their position, state of life, or circumstances, are unable to satisfy their zeal in the performance of exterior works, either of penance or of charity, will find in prayer, in suffering, in secret self-immolation, an efficacious channel for determining the direction of all their energies. They will suffer, since suffering forms an all-important part in their apostleship, but Jesus of Nazareth will teach them how available their secret sufferings will be for the interests they have at heart. Those hearts, beating in union with the Heart of Jesus, will pour forth unceasing prayer for the objects of their zeal; their very sufferings rendering that prayer more fervent and persuasive. Seeing how impossible it is for them to make God known and loved by their active, or rather visible co-operation, they seize upon every opportunity of humiliation or mortification, in a word, upon every species of suffering which may be acceptable to God as a work of impetration. They endeavour, moreover, so to sanctify their lives that all their actions may conduce more effectively to the interests of God, for which cause they desire to spend themselves, and for which they would gladly die.

Souls such as these practise virtue from the purest, highest motive, and although, as so many saints have desired, they would fain, if it were possible, multiply themselves in order to be able to go into all parts of the world to labour for God, and to make Him known, yet, in their inability to do this, they retrace within themselves the Hidden Life of Nazareth and thus consume their lives by a secret martyrdom of burning love - of insatiable zeal They will become living victims, unknown to the world indeed, but very dear to the Sacred Heart; and their sighs and tears and ardent prayers will be as effectual in hastening the triumph of God and of His Church, and the salvation of souls, as the most brilliant works wrought by those whose state of life permits them to exercise their zeal in a visible apostleship.

Let us ask Jesus of Nazareth to give us an earnest, devoted, and well-ordered zeal, and courage at the same time to support the interior sufferings that may result from it.

- text taken from the 1906 edition of The Heart of Jesus of Nazareth - Meditations on the Hidden Life; it has the Imprimatur if Bishop John Baptist Butt, Diocese of Southwark, England, 5 February 1890