We realize that fear is a passion that compels us to move away from the object that we fear. Often times we fear pain, we fear shame and even a fear of feeling rejected. Growing up in the late ‘90’s, I remember a popular t-shirt company that made “No Fear” shirts. Their catchy little slogans were to inspire youth to be courageous and even daring. Fear in the modern sense is something that we try to reject. So, what is this thing about fear of the Lord in this past weekend’s readings?
The Fear of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that draws us into the mystery of Divine Life. All the other gifts build upon this gift. Unlike the passion of fear, the Fear of the Lord compels us to move towards God and not away from Him. There are three degrees of Fear of the Lord.
The first degree of this gift is when one has complete horror for sin. St. Juliana would faint when she heard of another person committing a mortal sin. The Fear of the Lord is a gift that moves one away from sin and towards God because there is a Holy Fear that recognizes our sin hurts our relationship with the One who loves us eternally.
The next degree of Fear of the Lord is when one comes to the level of reverence and adoration for God and the things that are Holy. It is this kind of fear that made people in the bible knees bend all the way to the ground and faces covered when they were visited by an angel from God. This is the very reason why we genuflect and bow at Mass.
The final degree and highest level of Fear of the Lord is complete detachment from the things of this world so that one may cling to the things of the ‘next world.’ You and I were made in this world, but we are made for the next! The example of religious sisters, who live out the evangelical counsel of poverty, remind us of total detachment from this world in order to live for the next.
I think the best illustration of Fear of the Lord is a five-year old child at Disney World. Disney World is a majestically and exciting place for any child. However, if the child becomes separated from their parents, they become afraid.
Fear of the Lord is not a fear of punishment nor shame but rather a fear that we may become separated from the Lord. St. Francis de Sales once wrote, “We should fear the Lord from love not love from fear.”
May you and I resolve today to pray for the gift of Fear of the Lord so that we may never be separated from our Father!
Fr. Eric Clark