June 12, 2022
The Holy Trinity calls us to share Their life. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit help us do this. Today we consider the Gift of Fear of the Lord. What is it? Can fear be good and holy?
This is the second in a series of nine homilies on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The following are the links to all the homilies in this series:
3rd – The Gift of Piety
4th – The Gift of Fortitude
6th – The Gift of Counsel
7th – The Gift of Knowledge
8th – The Gift of Wisdom
9th – Searching for Wisdom
- Sometimes we are given a gift and we later forget about it. That is often the way we have been with the baptismal gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- A worldly fear is a fear in which we put love of the world above all else and that keeps us away from the Lord.
- Thomas calls servile fear a fear of punishment which is imperfect because it looks on God as the punisher and for the good that we want to receive. (self-love)
- Filial fear is a fear that sees God as a loving Father. Because of our love for God, we turn away from sin, not for fear of punishment, but because our true love for God.
- Jesus Himself in His humanity had filial love. He wanted to love His Father and did not want to do anything which would offend His Father.
- Thomas says this gift of fear helps us sense the greatness, transcendence and majesty of God. It makes us willing to suffer anything to stay united to God.
In this difficult world in which we live, we have already been adopted by God, and He gives us a chance to begin to share His own Divine life, the life of the Trinity, by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which we were given at Baptism.
One of those gifts is called the “Fear of the Lord.” It’s not a fear of punishment, but it’s a fear of losing God. It’s what St. Thomas calls, filial fear, that is the fear of a son, who loves his father, and does not want to offend his father, does not want to damage his relationship. So, it’s a fear that sees God, not as the punisher, but as the loving Father.
We turn away from sin, not primarily because of fear of punishment, but because of love for God, not wanting to do anything that would offend Him.