Daily Mass Reflections - 11/29
“Blessed are those who have been called
to the wedding feast of the Lamb” ~ Revelation 19:9
Today’s reading (Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3,9) and Gospel (Luke 21:20-28), similar in their apocalyptic tenor, afford us the opportunity to examine the sometimes overlooked, oftentimes misunderstood 7th Gift of the Holy Spirit, of course I’m talking about the notion of “Fear of the Lord.”
Whereas wisdom, fortitude and knowledge tend to be the headline grabbers, the show stealers if you will, fear of the Lord is oftentimes cast in the role of an extra, a throwaway virtue of sorts, one that is consistently and hastily rattled off last when listing the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. If Fear of the Lord were a baseball player, rest assured he or she could count on coming to the ballpark every day only to find out upon glancing at the lineup card that (s)he’ll be batting 9th. Yet if we could properly define, channel and harness this gift, our faith lives would be poised to grow exponentially, as would our ability to serve and love the Lord.
Many have an unhealthy misconception of this virtue, taking literal liberties with the word “fear” (“If I miss Sunday Mass, I’ll no doubt go straight to Hell.”) whereas others are seemingly oblivious to its very existence (“If I miss Mass, hey....no biggie. I’m going to Heaven anyway, and besides, I’ve got important things to do.”).
With that in mind, a definition of what fear in the Lord is would therefore appear to be in order.
Fear of the Lord speaks to the wonder and awe with which we view God. Are we truly aware of God’s glory and majesty? Do we act in a way which reflects our awareness? A person with wonder and awe knows that God is the perfection of all we desire: perfect knowledge, perfect goodness, perfect power, and perfect love. Saint Thomas Aquinas defines this state of mind and soul as “a fear of separating oneself from God. He describes the gift as a "filial fear," like a child's fear of offending his father, rather than a "servile fear," that is, a fear of punishment.”
Fear of the Lord is also the beginning of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:7) because it puts our mindset in its precise location with respect to God: we are the finite, dependent creatures, and He is the infinite, all-powerful Creator.
The gift of the Holy Spirit gives us the desire not to offend God, as well as the certainty that God will supply us the grace that we need in order to keep from offending Him. Our desire not to offend God is more than simply a sense of duty; like piety, the fear of the Lord arises out of love.
Strive and pray to understand and possess this gift in all that you do. From this gift, the other gifts - wisdom, understanding and piety just to name a few - will flow.
“Dear Lord, fill the hearts of your faithful with a loving reverence towards God. May we dread in any way to displease Him. Mark is, dear Lord, with the sign of thy true disciples
and animate us in all things with thy Spirit.” ~ Amen