Part II: Fear and Wisdom

It would be foolish for us to try to come to love God as an equal. Not only are we so far from his perfect love, but considering his transcendence and mystery fill us with awe and reverence. It is easy for us to get tired of working to follow his law…to get tired of getting up, clearing the dust, and starting over after we fall. Why doesn’t God show us his face? That would be enough, then we would be sure, and we could give everything to follow him.

Consider this. What if he were so beautiful that one single glimpse of his face would set our hearts on fire forever. We would be helpless, smitten; we would no longer even think twice before rejecting a temptation. But funny enough, if everything was so clear, there would be no love: our option for God would be a kneejerk reaction to follow the most beautiful fulfillment of all desire.

So he has preferred to remain hidden—though not completely. Little by little, he has revealed himself. Those who have ears ought to hear. And those who love him heed his word.

Fear of the Lord is a realistic way of life. You must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect…happy the servant if his master’s arrival finds him at his employment. It is worth keeping sober vigil, maintaining a ready alertness. Sure, this will keep us on our toes to avoid sin—but it will also help us to enjoy life more. In fact this is central to the Gospel Message: There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the Kingdom (Luke 12,32). Christ is not afraid of anyone here, but he does have a filial sense of wishing to always render due respect and love to his Father.

That is what makes fear of the Lord a gift of the Holy Spirit. St Thomas: Thereby [by the gift of fear of the Lord] we revere God, and avoid separating ourselves from him (II-II q19, a9, co.). From servile fear we have come to recognize him as Father; this has led us to a sense of sobriety and vigilance in this life, which directs us towards ascesis and a life detached from excessive pleasure seeking and wordliness—not because we are afraid of sinning, but because now we have set out on the path of wisdom, of attention to God and his ways, in order to be ready for the moment when he calls us to be with him at last.

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