Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Fear of the Lord

Anon wrote, "I have a question that is unrelated to the current discussion. I am trying to study faith, and something I see a lot in my reading is that a fear of God is essential. Why are we supposed to fear God if He is so loving? Does it mean that we should fear God's judgment at the time of our death -- i.e., that we should fear the moment when God will ask us to account for our lives and how we lived it? Or does it mean that we should fear God's power to inflict terrible suffering while we are on earth, like in the form of tragedies and mass disasters. I have to say honestly that I do not feel a fear of God and I do not think that most people do. If I did, I might be able to commit myself more to a religious and holy life, which is something I am having a hard time doing. Could not having a fear of God be the thing that is in the way?"

Thanks, Anon, for what you wrote. Much of what you write is right on target in terms of the fear of God leading us to holiness in preparation for Judgement. But, in general terms, "fear of the Lord" means approaching God with awe and respect. It is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism and are sealed with at Confirmation. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov 1:7).

Fear of the Lord is under the first Commandment, "YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD AND HIM ONLY SHALL YOU SERVE". The Catechism states, "God makes himself known by recalling his all-powerful loving, and liberating action in the history of the one he addresses: 'I brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' The first word contains the first commandment of the Law: 'You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve him.... You shall not go after other gods' (Deut 6:13-14). God's first call and just demand is that man accept him and worship him" (# 2084).

From Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 2:15-17:
"Those who fear the Lord do not disdain his words,
and those who love him keep his ways.
Those who fear the Lord do their best to please him,
and those who love him will find satisfaction in the Law.
Those who fear the Lord keep their hearts prepared
and humble themselves in his presence

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) writes:
"Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not?...I say this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class of feelings we should have - yes, to an intense degree - if we literally had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe that He is present, we shall have them; and not to have them, is not to realize, not to believe that He is present".

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