From a reader…
I have been exploring Fear of the Lord, beginning with Sirach and the OT. I think I understand Pope Francis’ point about it not being a servile fear but one born of awe and oriented to love. The Jewish resources are illuminating and fascinating.
My question is, Father, “how does one learn to fear the Lord?” Is it a mystical experience that is sought in prayer or a practical conclusion of recognizing that we need to fear, as Jesus reminds us, the One who can do more than destroy the body?
Fear of the Lord is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It seems to me that one doesn’t so much learn how to do it, but rather one prays that one be given it and that it be increased.
When we fear, what we fear is an evil. The object of fear is an evil. But God is good, not evil. How do we rightly fear God?
We rightly fear separation from God and punishment for sin. And so we turn to God in fear and in hope. Turning to God in fear of punishment is a lesser motive than turning to God in fear of sin. Children fear punishment from their father. However, it is better to fear that which offends the father. Consider the difference between attrition (sorrow for sins because we dread punishment) and the more pleasing contrition (sorrow for sin because of God’s love). Our service of God is more pleasing and better when we serve in love, fearing to offend, rather than lesser, servile fear of sin’s consequences for ourselves.
Like any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, one can dispose oneself to receive it by practicing the natural aspects of it. A few pointers might be…
Submit with docility to authority.
Exercise reverence and humility.
Do not act in a manner too familiar or casual with sacred things, places or persons.
Place oneself in an appropriate stance before the Lord who is the creator of the universe.
Kneel a lot.
One of the things we can all do to increase Fear of the Lord in the whole Church and, therefore, the world is to pray and work together to eliminate Communion in the hand.
We can also pray and work to increase reverent sacred worship especially through the use of the traditional Roman Rite.
Save The Liturgy – Save The World.