The gift of fear
Presence of God
O Lord, grant that I may fear but one thing : that of displeasing You and being separated from You.
I. The Holy Spirit invites us to His school : "Come, children, hearken to me : I will teach you the fear of the Lord" (Ps. 33, 12). This is the first lesson the divine Paraclete teaches the soul desiring to become a saint. It is fundamental and most important because, infusing into the soul hatred of sin, which is the greatest obstacle to union with God, it insures the development of the spiritual life. In this sense Holy Scripture says, "The fear ofthe Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Sir 1,16).
To educate us in the fear of the Lord, the Holy Spirit, instead of placing before our eyes pictures of the punishment and pains due to sin, instead of representing God as a stern judge, shows Him to us as a most loving Father, infinitely desirous of our good, and He presents us the touching picture of God’s favors and mercies. "I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, have I drawn thee," whispers the Holy Spirit in the depths of our soul; "You are not servants, but my friends, my children" (cf. Je. 31, 3 - cf. Jo. 15, 15). Captured by love for such a good Father, the soul has but one desire, to return Him love for love, to give Him pleasure and to be united with Him forever. Consequently, it fears nothing but sin, which offends God and alone can separate it from Him. What a difference there is between this filial fear, which is the fruit of love, and servile fear, which arises from the dread of punishment! It is true that the fear ofjudgment and the divine punishment is salutary and in certain cases can serve greatly to hold a soul back from sin; but if it does not change gradually into filial fear, it will never be sufficient to impel the soul on to sanctity. Fear that is merely servile contracts the soul and makes it petty, whereas filial fear dilates it and spurs it on in the way of generosity and perfection.
II. The gift of fear perfects at the same time the virtues of hope and of temperance. The object of hope is the possession of God and eternal beatitude. The gift of fear, by making us carefully avoid even the slightest offense against God, establishes us in the disposition best suited to maintain our hope for the beatific union of heaven and to receive the graces necessary to obtain it.
Temperance restrains our passions and the attractions of sense pleasure. The gift of fear perfects this virtue by making us more generous in mortifying our senses and passions. Impelled by this holy fear, we become more vigilant than ever, lest we be seduced by the desire for pleasure; we are eager to renounce anything rather than displease our heavenly Father in even the slightest degree. "It is much better to displease myself than to be displeasing to God," says the soul under the influence ofthis gift.
The Holy Spirit, rather than have us fear God, incites us to fear ourselves, with our evil dispositions and passions. These, being the source of sin, may put us in danger of offending God and of being separated from Him, or at least, of not living in complete union with Him. However, this fear should not give rise to anxiety or scruples; if it is accompanied by confidence and love, it will urge us to place ourselves unreservedly in God’s hands, that He may keep us from every shadow of sin. While the gift of fear causes us to throw ourselves into the arms of the heavenly Father with great confidence, it infuses into the soul at the same time, a sense of respectful reverence toward His infinite Majesty. The soul feels that God, because of His immense dignity, is most distant from it; but it feels too, that through His merciful love He has made Himself so near that He invites it to live in intimacy with Him. Between these alternations of filial reverence and trustful confidence, the gift of fear matures and blossoms into perfect love. "When the soul attains to perfect possession of the spirit of fear, it has likewise in perfection the spirit of love, since that fear which is the last of the seven gifts, is filial, and the perfect fear of a son proceeds from the perfect love of a father" (J.C. SC, 26,3).
"My God, although I desire to love You, and although I know the vanities of the world and prefer to serve You rather than them, I can never be sure while I am here below, that I shall never again offend You. Since this is true, what can I do but flee to You and beg You not to allow my enemies to lead me into temptation? How can I recognize their treacherous assaults? Oh! my God! how I need Your help! Speak, O Lord, the word that will enlighten and strengthen me. Deign to teach me what remedy to use in the assaults of this perilous struggle! You Yourself tell me the remedy is love and fear. Love will make me quicken my steps; fear will make me look where I set my feet so that I shall not fall. Give me both, O Lord, for love and fear are two strong castles from the height of which I shall be able to conquer every temptation. Sustain me, O God, so that for all the gold in the world, I may never commit any deliberate venial sin, however small" (cf. T.J. Way, 39 - 40 - 41).
"My Lord and my God, all my good consists in being united to you and placing all my hope in You. If my soul were left to itself, it would be like a puff of wind, which goes away and does not return. Without You I can do no good, nor can I remain steadfast. Without You I cannot love You, please You, or avoid what is displeasing to You. Therefore, I take refuge in You, I abandon myself to You, that You may sustain me by Your power, hold me by Your strength, and never permit me to become separated from You" (cf. St. Bernard).
Topics in this meditation:
Enjoyed your reading? Share with a friend...