Saturday, February 13, 2010

On the 'Fear of God'

Dear Parish Faithful,

I found the following passage in the current issue known as "The Sword." It was written by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo:

"When we speak of 'fear of God' some people would understand this as a kind of terror and trembling fear of someone that they consider to be almost malicious and vindictive. However, this is not what is meant by the word. We should understand this as a reverent awe. In HEB. 5:7, we read that God heard His Son's prayer 'because of His reverent devoutness (evlavias).' In Old English, translators have rendered this word as 'fear.' This is because the word fear carried that meaning also. The fear of God is an all-encompassing awe at the great mystery that is God and His love for mankind. We 'fear' him in the same way that a child who loves his parent, also fears that loving parent.

"When a child does something that he knows is wrong, his trepidation is not only that he or she will be found out and chastised, but also the fear of hurting the feelings of the parent. Our fear of God should be more like a child lost from his parent in a large shopping mall. The child is fearful of the separation, fearful of being lost from the parent, and in trepidation that the parent will be upset that he got lost.

"When, however, the parent finds the lost child, so far from being angry, the parent is in tears with joy that the child has been found. If the parent scolds the child, it is clear that the scolding is being done with great love and a sense of relief that the child has been found. All these things really describe what is meant by the 'fear of God'.

"In the scroll on the icon of St. Antony the Great, it quotes the saint as saying, 'I used to fear God, but now I love Him.' This is because we fear the unknown, but the more we know God, the more any fear turns to love. Then, the only fear that we have is the fear of alienation, of finding ourselves lost in this world without our heavenly Father, and knowing that if we become lost, it is our own fault. Such fear is based on love, not on terror."

Another, very short anonymous post in "The Sword" said the following about the 'fear of God:'

"The correct fear of God should not be the fear of some kind of power in the sky. But if you believe in God, you have to love God, too. You just can't say I believe. So my fear of God is that I don't want to embarrass myself in front of someone I love and believe in. That kind of fear is not punishment from some power in the sky."

Some good reflections as we enter the lenten season. We respond to love with love when we look to God and our relationship with God. Every "directive" we receive in the Church is based on God's love for us, communicated to us so that we can become His children capable, in time, to say the words of St. John the Theologian as our own: "There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts our fear." (I JN. 4:18)

Fr. Steven

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