“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you who to fear: fear him who after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell.” – Lk 12:4,5
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the fear of the Lord. What does it mean to fear God?
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. In a similar way, a child should not be motivated to obey a parent simply because of fear of punishment, but because of love and respect; a husband or wife should fear to dishonour their vows to each other. A single person should never deceive their friends but treasure each other’s friendship. If you love someone you don’t want to disappoint them or to break their heart. You should fear hurting a loved one and violating that person’s trust more than you fear punishment. A genuine relationship with God is based on love, not fear. “Fear of the Lord” is not a servile fear whereby a person serves God simply because he fears punishment, whether temporal punishment in this life or the eternal punishment of hell. Nevertheless, we should have a healthy sense of fear for the punishment due to sin, including the fires of hell, even though this should never be the motivating factor for loving God.
The fear of the Lord should motivate you in three ways:
- first, to have a vivid sense of God’s infinite greatness;
- second, to have a real sorrow for sin, even venial sins, and to do penance to atone for sins committed;
- and third, to be vigilant to avoid the near occasions of sin, to struggle against personal weakness and fight temptation.
Lord, help me fear to displease you. Give me a love that conquers every sinful desire in me.
Rom 4:1-8; Ps 32:1-2,5,11; Lk 12:1-7
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