5th Sun Easter B 2018:  FEAR OF THE LORD

The gift of “fear of the Lord” is sometimes misunderstood because of the word “fear.” “Fear of the Lord” is not a servile fear whereby a person serves God simply because he fears punishment, whether it is some sort of temporal punishment in this life or the eternal punishment of hell.   A genuine relationship with God is based on love, not fear.   Therefore, this “fear of the Lord” is a filial or reverential fear that moves a person to do God’s will and avoid sin because of love for God, who is all good and deserving of all of our love.   A child should not be motivated to obey a parent simply because of fear of punishment, but because of love and respect.  A person who loves someone does not want to disappoint or to break the other person’s heart.   One should have a healthy sense of fear for the punishment due to sin, including the fires of hell, even though this should not be the motivating factor for loving God.

Therefore, this gift motivates the person in three ways:

  1. First, to have a vivid sense of God’s infinite greatness;
  2. Second, to have a real sorrow for sin, even venial sins, and to do penance and atone for sin.
  3. Third, to be vigilant and avoid the near occasions of sin

The gift of fear brings to perfection the virtue of hope.   A person who respects God as God trusts in His will and anchors his life in Him.   He approaches the Lord with humility, docility and obedience.   He believes in His promises of forgiveness of sin and eternal life in heaven.   This gift is foundational for the other gifts.

As Pope St. Gregory the Great says: “Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven”

This gift also prevents us from being too familiar with God.   A person can easily take God’s love for granted and presume His forgiveness without real contrition; or forget God’s majesty by taking His holy name in vain; or make demands of God and then be angry when He does not meet them; or forget that every gift is from God and be selfish; or neglect prayer and worship because there is not enough time for Him; or disregard God’s commandments and the teachings of His church.   Without fear of the Lord a person might say, “God loves me just the way I am, and I am going to heaven.”  One has to ask, “Does such a person really love God?”

A good way to cultivate this gift is through daily prayer and worship at Mass. Regular and careful examinations of conscience also are important, as well as the regular use of the sacrament of penance and meditate on the infinite majesty of God.

At his audience on June 11, Pope Francis reflected on fear of the Lord: “This is the fear of God: abandonment into the goodness of Our Father who loves us so. … This is what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: He makes us feel like children in the arms of our Daddy … with the wonder and joy of a child who sees himself served and loved by his Father.” Therefore, this great gift of fear of the Lord allows us to have an intimate relationship with the Holy Trinity.

All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are manifested in the Fruits of the Spirit.  These fruits are the signs that the Gifts are working in our life, like patience, kindness, forgiveness, peace, etc.  So how do we know if we have a holy “fear of God” or “Wonder and Awe”?

  • respect love and trust in and for our parents
  • respect, love and reverence for God, His Church, and all that belongs to God
  • the desire not to offend Him, and the certainty that He will help us.
  • living in hope.
  • having a sense of awe that is joyful.
  • having moderation in our life and not living in excess of what we need:  gratitude
  • realize our dependency upon God,
  • never wants to be separated from God
  • horror and sorrow for sin.
  • avoiding sin and attachment to created things out of reverence and love of God

This gift also perfects the virtue of temperance, which seeks to use all things wisely and in moderation, neither in excess nor in defect, especially those sensible pleasures.   With reason enlightened by faith, temperance controls the passions.   Temperance is related to the gift of fear because one’s respect for God, and one’s awareness of being made in His image and likeness, and being redeemed by Christ motivate a person to give glory to God by being temperate in actions and desires, not using, doing, or indulging in anything to excess or defect.   For example, chastity is a virtue of temperance, which respects the goodness of one’s own sexuality, the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of marital love.   A person moved by the gift of fear strives to live a chaste life because God is the creator of these goods, and a chaste life gives glory and praise to Him.

View other posts from the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit Homilies” series: