‘The Jealous God’

by Outreach Officer Lena Kacperska

I love keeping different areas of my life separate. My academic commitments don’t really cross over with my societies or with my college life. I’ve always tried to do the same with my church and chaplaincy life and, for some reason, I have always struggled.

I would fall off the wagon of going to Mass every few weeks and then I don’t feel super involved in the chaplaincy life; thus, falling off the wagon again and the cycle continues. I think I’ve finally realised what I’ve been doing wrong – I haven’t recognised God’s jealousy.

In English, we often use the words “jealous” and “envious” interchangeably. A quick search shows a common definition of “jealous” is “feeling or showing envy of someone or their achievements and advantages.” We’re conditioned to not feel jealousy. It’s considered a sin and rightly so, but until recently I didn’t understand the divine jealousy that God represents.

The Hebrew word translated “jealous” in the Ten Commandments is qanna. It is only used to describe God and is related to another word that means “zeal.” Common synonyms for “zeal” are passion, enthusiasm, and fervour.

God’s love for us is never-ending and steadfast and when we try to keep our lives in little compartments and keep them away from God, He gets jealous as He wants to be present in every aspect of our lives. God is jealous of his relationship with his people because he passionately loves them and does not want them to be destroyed by idolatry.

I’ll be the first one to put my hand up and say I don’t always recognise idolatry in my life, but it doesn’t always include worshipping statues and forsaking God, often it’s not including God in an area of our life because we are scared how it’s going to affect our relationships with friends or family.

God does not want our spirits to be consumed by this world or by the ‘god’ of this world, who is the devil. God wants a relationship with our human spirit, so that He can instil His good will within us. However, the devil is always working. He also wants to get a hold of our human spirit, to influence us to do his will. He has come to destroy us, and he speaks to our “flesh.” Here, there is a battle between two forces, and in this battle, God is a jealous God. He is zealous (jealous) for our spirits. He wants us to be zealous, with “God’s zeal” in this battle.

What I’m going to take away from the past few months, is that you can’t be halfway there with God – kind of committed but not really. He is way too good for that, He wants all of me, He’s jealous because he knows what’s best for me and that’s Him. So, I’m going to ask God for more zeal to keep fighting to stay close to Him. Thankfully, I have a whole host of saints that I can ask for help with that, and with them I will be praying the below prayer by Edward Hays:

“Implant within my heart, O God,
the fiery zeal of a Jeremiah,
the conviction of a Ruth or Rebecca
and the zest of a Francis of Assisi.

Stir my slumbering soul,
that it might sing a song of passion and devotion,
drunk with dancing joy and desire for you,
my divine and loving Friend.

May my heart be as hot as the heart of Moses
for all your children burdened by slavery,
for all who feel oppression’s steely heel
or suffer rejection in an alien land.

May I, like your son Jesus,
be consumed with zeal for you, Divine Beloved,
for life, for justice and for peace;
for all that I know in faith.

Fill me with zeal, O God.

St. Josephine Bakhita (October 2021)

In appreciation of Black History Month, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on a saint who ethnically reflects me. As a Black person in the United Kingdom, seeing artwork depicting saints of my race is a rarity.

I still fondly remember the first time I saw an illustration of St Josephine. Her gentle smile brought a wave of comfort to me. I soon began to envisage many of my female relatives and in St Josephine, I felt as though I were looking at another dear aunt or sister.

In that split moment, I felt connected to the Catholic Church in a way I had not realised I needed, nor lacked. The call to sainthood instantaneously felt more tangible simply because I saw someone who resembled me having succeeded; that is the power of representation and diversity.

During the month of October, we observe a special devotion to the Holy Rosary. Additionally in the UK, October celebrates Black History Month. It begins 1st October, fortuitously the same day as St Josephine canonisation.

I have an enormity of admiration for this humble saint, both as an African and as a Catholic. Despite facing awful cruelties, much like our Lord whose journey to Golgotha was marred by malice, the reservoirs of her love refused to run dry.

St Josephine cultivated the kind of love which enabled her to endure physical sufferings without harbouring begrudging resentment to the Creator. A kind of love which also refused to tolerate vengeful hate to those who trespassed against her. This is the kind of love Jesus taught underpinned the entirety of the Law (Matt. 22:37-40).Why have I chosen to reflect on St Josephine Bakhita?

Aside from the bias of sharing my birthday with her feast day, I did so because she has a heart full of love.

God is Love (1 John 4:16‬) and like St Josephine, we all need to radiate that love in our lives. So that in a world full of sin and disappear, we may bear the illuminating flame of God, allowing others to draw from its warmth.

Whenever I look at St. Josephine, I do not see a former slave of human oppression. Instead, I see a saint liberated by her union to Christ and in turn, while thanking the Lord for my own civil freedoms, I pray to be made a slave of Christ (1 Cor. 7:22), to which there is no greater honour.

We ask Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to humbly present to her Son our prayers for strength and wherever possible, deliverance for all those who have been victims of kidnap and human trafficking. Especially, all the Chibok girls still missing. We petition her Immaculate Heart which felt the pangs of losing the Child Jesus to alleviate the pain of all those separated from family members.

We ask St Joseph, her most chaste spouse to pray with us for those under modern slavery, such as those on zero contract hours and the victims of unfair-trade exploitation. We pray for justice, employment stability and for a change of conscience by those subjecting their neighbours to further poverty.

Lastly, we ask St Josephine Bakhita to join our prayers for the abolishment of slavery, both secularly and in those of us still enslaved by sin. We ask that the shackles oppressing us be broken and that the love of Christ should nourish us all to the call of sainthood.

This Black History Month is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the life of a Saint of any ‘ethnic minority’. Let their stories live on. I have chosen Saint Josephine Bakhita’s good news, whose story will you share?

God bless, Ishmael

The Feast of St. Augustine (28 August 2021)

To celebrate the Feast day of St Augustine, patron Saint of brewers and theologians, we thought it would be fitting to share a reflection on his life and what we can learn from it.

The youth of St Augustine is one we could sometimes find overlapping with our own – one marked by pride, disinterest in God and solely worldly ambitions. However, St Augustine’s conversion to Christ is to be a true inspiration for many, but especially those who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break. The conversion and redemption of St Augustine best demonstrates that Christian life is a continual journey of faith, one that endures right up until our death, one filled with adverse circumstances and sin, yet overflowing with the grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, St Augustine’s conversion did not happen overnight, it took great patience by both his mother, St Monica, who constantly prayed for the conversion of her son, and St Augustine, who patiently received and cooperated with the overflowing grace the Lord gives to those with a sorrowful and contrite heart.

So, on this feast day, meditate on the life of St Augustine and consider how Our Lord is within us even when we stray from Him. Pray for friends and family who may suffer with temptations to certain vices and for strength and courage in our service for God.

St Augustine, pray for us!