The Holy Spirit and the Gift of Fear
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, The month of May is dedicated to increased devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us ask Jesus and St. Joseph to teach us to practice great love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary! This Sunday we celebrate Pentecost – the Gift of the Holy Spirit and founding of the Church! This week I share with you a meditation on the Holy Spirit and the Gift of Fear. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: The Holy Spirit - “The Gift of Fear: Servile fear and the holy fear of God. Effects of this gift in the soul: St. Teresa says that God bestows two remedies for all the temptations and trials that we have to endure: Love and fear… Love will make us quicken our steps, while fear will make us look where we are setting our feet so that we shall not fall. (St. Teresa, The Way of Perfection, 40, 1) But not every fear is good. There is the worldly fear (cf. M.M. Philipon, The Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Madrid) of those who fear physical evil above all else, or the social disadvantages which can beset them in this life. They flee from all earthly inconveniences; as soon as they foresee that fidelity to a Christian way of living can cause them any hardship, they show themselves ready to abandon Christ and His Church. From this fear springs human respect and it is the origin of countless surrenders and of betrayal itself. That fear which is called servile is quite different. This turns the soul from sin because of fear of the punishment of hell or for some other self-interested supernatural motive. This is a good fear, since for many who are far from God, this can be the first step toward their conversion, and the beginning of love. (Sir. 25:12) This should not be the chief motive of the Christian, but in many cases, it will be a great defense against temptation and the allurements of evil. He who fears in not perfected in love (John 4:18), writes the Apostle St. John, because the true Christian acts through love and is created to love. The holy fear of God, gift of the Holy Spirit, is that which dwelt, with the other gifts, in the most holy Soul of Christ and which also filled the Most Blessed Virgin. It is the gift of holy souls, which persists eternally in Heaven and leads the blessed, together with the angels, to give continual praise to the Most Blessed Trinity. St. Thomas teaches that this gift is a consequence of the gift of Wisdom and is, as it were, its outward sign. (St. Thomas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, 45, 1 and 3) This filial fear is proper to children who feel themselves protected by their Father, whom they do not wish to offend. Its results are twofold. An immense respect for God‟s majesty, a deep discernment of what is sacred and a limitless rejoicing in His goodness as a Father, is the more important of the two, since it was the only one present in Christ and in our Lady. This gift enables holy souls to acknowledge their nothingness before God. We may also repeat frequently, recognizing our nothingness, perhaps as an aspiration, those words so often repeated by St. Josemaria Escriva: I am worth nothing, I have nothing, I can do nothing, I know nothing, I am nothing, nothing at all! (Quoted by A. Vasquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, Madrid) at the same time as he realized the incalculable grandeur of knowing oneself and of being a child of God. During our life on earth there is another effect that derives from this gift: a great horror of sin, and the liveliest contrition if one has had the misfortune to commit it. By the light of Faith, illumined by the splendor of the other gifts, the soul grasps something of the transcendence of God and of the infinite distance and the abyss which sin opens between man and God. The gift of fear enlightens us to understand that sin is at the root of the moral evils which divide and ravage society. (John Paul II, Letter presenting the „Instrumentum Laboris‟ of the VI Synod of Bishops, 25 January 1983) And the gift of fear leads us also to a hatred for deliberate venial sin and to an energetic reaction against the first symptoms of lukewarmness, carelessness or mediocrity. At particular moments of our life we may feel the need to repeat insistently, as an urgent petition: I don‟t want to be lukewarm, „confige timore tuo carnes meas.‟ Grant me, my God, a filial fear that will make me react! (cf. J. Escriva, The Way, 326) The holy fear of God and readiness to reject all sin: Love and fear. These must be the accompaniments of our way. When love banishes fear, fear itself is changed into love. (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Homily 15) It is the fear of a child who loves his Father without reserve, and who will allow nothing in the world to distance him from that Father. Then the soul understands better the infinity which separates it from God and at the same time its condition as a child of God. Never until now has it trusted more in God; never, either, has it respected and venerated Him more. When the holy fear of God is lost, the sense of sin becomes diluted or vanishes. Then tepidity easily enters the soul. It fails to discern the power and majesty of God, and the honor due to Him. We cannot bring the supernatural world nearer by trying vainly to eliminate God‟s transcendence. The way to do it is through the divinization wrought in us by grace, through humility and love expressed in the struggle to banish all sin from our life.
If we are to banish this evil… we must first try to ensure that our dispositions, both habitual and actual, are those of a clear aversion to sin. Sincerely, in a manly way, we must develop, both in our heart and in our mind, as sense of horror for mortal sins. We must also cultivate a deep-seated hatred of deliberate venial sin, those negligences which while they don‟t deprive us of God‟s grace, do serve to obstruct the channels through which grace comes to us. (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 243) Nowadays, many people seem to have lost the holy fear of God. They forget Who God is and who they are, they forget divine justice and so they are encouraged to persist in their follies. (cf. J. Escriva, The Way, 747) The consideration of our final end, of the Last Things, of that reality which we will encounter perhaps before long, the definitive meeting with God, disposes us to receive more fully from the Holy Spirit this gift which is so near to love. The link between this gift and the virtues of humility and temperance. Sensitivity of soul and the sense of sin: Our Lord tells us in many ways that we should be afraid of nothing except sin, which takes away our friendship with God. Confronted with any difficulty, any situation, an uncertain future, we shouldn‟t feel afraid. We should be strong and courageous as befits children of God. A Christian cannot live in terror, but should have in his heart a holy fear of God, Whom nonetheless he loves madly. Throughout the Gospel, Christ repeats several times „Do not fear… do not be afraid.‟ And at the same time, together with these appeals for fortitude resounds the exhortation: „rather fear Him Who can destroy both body and soul in hell‟ (Matt. 10:28). We are called to fortitude and at the same time to fear of God, and this should be a fear that comes of love, a filial fear. And only when this fear sinks into our hearts can we be really strong with the strength of the apostles, the martyrs and the confessors. (John Paul II, Address to the New Cardinals, 30 April 1979) Among the principal effects which the fear of God works in the soul are detachment from created things, and an interior attitude of vigilance to avoid the least occasion of sin. The soul acquires a particular sensitivity to discern whatever can grieve the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 4:30) The gift of fear lies at the root of humility since it shows the soul its own fragility and teaches it the need of maintaining a will faithfully and lovingly subjected to the infinite Majesty of God. So we do not want to oust God from His place; happy to stay in ours, we do not want honors which are for His glory. One of the signs of pride is ignorance of the fear of God. The gift of the fear of God, like humility, has an affinity with the virtue of temperance. It leads us to use human goods in moderation, in secondary place to our supernatural end. The root of sin is most frequently found in the disordered search for sense pleasures or for material things. And here this gift is active, purifying the heart and keeping it entire for God. The gift of fear is above all the struggle against sin. All the other gifts help in this specific mission: the insight bestowed by the gifts of understanding and wisdom show one the greatness of God and the true meaning of sin. The practical directives of the gift of counsel maintain one in an untiring battle against evil. (cf. M. M. Philipon, op. cit.) This gift, which was infused along with the others in Baptism, increases in the measure in which we are true to the graces the Holy Spirit grants us. It does so specifically when we consider the greatness and majesty of God, when we conduct an examination of conscience in depth, discovering our faults and sins and giving them the importance which they have. The holy fear of God will lead us easily to contrition and repentance arising from filial love. Love and fear of God! These are two strong castles whence we can wage war on the world and on the devils. (St. Teresa, op. cit., 40, 2) The holy fear of God will gently lead us to a prudent mistrust of ourselves, to flee quickly from the occasions of sin. And it will incline us to a greater sensitivity for God and all that refers to God. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to help us by means of this gift to recognize our faults sincerely and to feel true sorrow for them. May He make us react as the Psalmist: My eyes shed streams of tears, because men do not keep Thy law. (Ps. 118:136) Let us pray that, with a sensitive soul, we always keep alive our sense of sin.” (From: In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may God bless us and grant us the grace to follow the Holy Spirit! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel