Ordinary Time - Week 12c

Fear of God

(From Conversation with God, Fernandez Carvajal)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, Holy Scripture teaches us. And this is the basis of all the virtues, for if a man is not steadfast and zealous in the fear of the Lord, his house will be quickly overthrown. Christ himself teaches his friends that they should not fear those who can kill the body, because there is nothing more they can do. I will tell you whom to fear, he says to his most faithful followers, to those who have left all things to follow him. Fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! The Acts of the Apostles tell us how the early Church grew, was built up, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

We should not forget that the love of God grows stronger the farther we are from mortal sin and the greater the efforts we make to overcome deliberate venial sin. The holy fear of God is a great help to us in carrying on this open struggle against everything that offends him. It is always a filial fear, proper to a son who recoils from inflicting sorrow and sadness on his Father. He knows who his Father is, what sin is, and the infinite separation it imposes on the sinner. This is why Saint Augustine says Blessed the soul who fears God, since it is strong against the temptations of the devil. Blessed is the man who fears the Lord always and he to whom has been given the remembrance of the fear of the Lord He who fears God leaves the pathway of evil and adheres to the path of virtue. The fear of God makes a man wary and vigilant to avoid sin. The dissolute life triumphs where there is no fear of God.

Love of God and filial fear are two aspects of the same attitude which enables us to walk in safety. As we consider the infinite goodness of God, who approaches us in the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, we are moved to love him more and more. As we contemplate the majesty and justice of God and our own nothingness, the fear of saddening God is awakened, together with the fear of losing him whom we love so much, because of our personal sins. So fear and love must go together, Cardinal Newman advises us. Continue to fear, continue to love until the last day of your lives, he tells us. From that moment on, only love will remain. Perfect love casts out fear.

The holy fear of God is a guarantee and support of true love. It helps us to make a definitive break with mortal sins. It impels us to do penance for the sins we have committed and preserves us from deliberate faults. The thought of the punishment we deserve for our sins helps us to face the daily difficulties and deprivations and struggles without which there cannot be any real freedom from sin or any perfect union with God. We always have, indeed, plenty of reason to be penetrated with the fear of God when we consider the many occasions of sin that lie all around us, our own extreme weakness, the strength of our inordinate attachments and habits, our natural inclination to self-indulgence, the pull of our own concupiscence from within and the attractions of the world from without, our many faults and defects and the plain carelessness of which we are guilty every day. When faced with such personal weakness, is it possible not to fear? Is it possible not to trust in the immense divine goodness?