Perhaps it will be of help to develop a theme set forth in the Gospel this past Sunday. The Lord Jesus at one point rebukes the devil and says, Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” (Lk 4:8)
Jesus is tapping into the Old Testament vision of the “Fear of the Lord” as Deuteronomy says,
Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. (Deut 10:20)
Fear the LORD your God, serve him only (Deut 6:13).
I have written extensively on the “Fear of the Lord” HERE and HERE. But for our purposes here let us reflect on the magnificent gift that it is to fear the Lord. And, if you don’t mind, I’d like to begin with the personal.
I want to say that I am awestruck, utterly astonished, at how good God has been to me. His gifts to me have amazed me. I do NOT deserve them and can only conclude that I received them for the benefit of others AND that God is utterly gratuitous, giving gifts simply because He is good, rather then because we are deserving.
I want to add that even the setbacks in my life have been “gifts in a strange package.” I have come to discover that even the dark passages, wherein I grew lost and angry, have now turned to bless me. My crosses have become the tree of life for me by His grace.
Let me repeat, I am utter astonished, dumfounded, amazed, astounded, bewildered, blown away, boggled, bowled over, overwhelmed, startled, stunned, stupefied, and taken aback by God’s love, grace and mercy.
Why do I say all of this (other this in profound gratitude)? Because, this is most fundamentally what it means to “Fear the Lord.” To fear the Lord is not a cringing fear, which waits for a punishing blow. It is a holy reverence, born in love and deep appreciation, indeed awe at Who God is, and how good and holy He is.
To fear the Lord is to hold Him in awe, It is to be amazed at what he has done for me.
In every Mass Jesus says, “Do this in remembrance of Me.” What does it mean to remember? To remember is to have so present in my mind and heart what the Lord has done for me, that I’m grateful, and I’m different. It is to go to the foot of the cross and finally have it dawn on me that He died for me.
And as that happens, as I begin to realize what He has done, my heart is broken open, and love, appreciation and gratitude begin to flood in. A deep love and holy reverence, an awe begins to fill my heart.
This is the Holy Fear of the Lord.
And out of this Holy Fear, born in love and appreciation, I dread, that is I fear, the thought of ever offending God who has been so good to me.
This is the Holy Fear of the Lord. I invite you to visit the links above to see how this is born out in scripture.
In this fear, this appreciative love, we want to obey God, we are eager to serve and reverence Him, because He is good, not merely because he can punish.
I am mindful of an old rabbinic tale which meditates on why God, over and over again says, when giving the Law in Deuteronomy ends every command with the expression “I am the Lord.” (e.g. Lev. 22) An Old Rabbi, unnamed, says,
Let me tell you what God means when he says this! He is saying, ‘Look! I am the One who fished you out of the mud, Now come over here and Listen to me!
Indeed, yes Lord, You have been good to me! You have done more than fish me out of the mud, you have saved me from Hell, you snatched me from the raging waters and set me on firm rock. Yes Lord, I love you, and whatever you want, I want. Whatever you don’t want, I don’t want it.
This is the Fear of the Lord. Ask for this holy gift. It is the solution to many temptations.