The Gift of Fear of the Lord generates within us an awe, reverence and respect for God based upon his sovereignty, especially in contrast to our littleness and weakness.
Bd John Paul II:
[The Gift of Fear of the Lord] is a sincere and reverential feeling that a person experiences before the tremendous majesty of God, especially when he reflects upon his own infidelity and the danger of being “found wanting” at the eternal judgment which no one can escape. The believer goes and places himself before God with a “contrite spirit” and a “humbled heart”, knowing well that he must await his own salvation “with fear and trembling”. Nonetheless, that does not mean an irrational fear, but a sense of responsibility and fidelity to the law.
All this is what the Holy Spirit takes up and elevates with the gift of the Fear of the Lord. It certainly does not exclude the trepidation that arises from an awareness of the faults committed and the prospect of divine chastisement, but mitigates it with faith in the divine mercy and with the certitude of the fatherly concern of God who wills the eternal salvation of each one. With this gift, however, the Holy Spirit instills in the soul most of all a filial love which is a sentiment rooted in love of God. The soul is now concerned not to displease God, whom he loves as a Father, not to offend him in anything, to “abide in him” and grow in charity.
The filial love mentioned by JP2 produces a filial fear, which Fr Gabriel contrasts with servile fear:
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 of judgment 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.
Here are some occasions on which we should engage (or ask for more of) the Gift of Fear of the Lord:
- If we have been taking God for granted
- If we have been ignoring God
- If we neglect to acknowledge God’s action in our lives
- If you’ve become complacent about the existence of certain sins or imperfections in your life
- If you’ve never prostrated yourself before God in your personal prayer time
- If you tend to go months at a time without receiving the Sacrament of Penance
- If your spirituality has led you to fall into an excessive familiarity with God, tending to treat God as an equal
If you can think of other times when we should engage the Gift of Fear of the Lord, please share them with us in the Comment Box.