A little over a week ago many celebrated Halloween by going trick-or-treating with family and friends. Many costumes were harmless pumpkins, turtles, animals of all sorts, or cute creatures. While others dressed as ghosts, witches, grim reapers, and hosts of other ghoulish creatures that are meant to induce fear. Then there are haunted houses and people who seek out scary things. With all these spooky things that find a home on Halloween many ask, ‘What are you afraid of?’ In living the life of faith is there a place for fear? Is fear good or bad?
Fear is both good and bad. We can consider fear in different ways. The natural fear that keeps us safe, healthy and alive is good. Our lives, health and safety are all good things. Inordinate fear or irrational fear, the fear that keeps us from living our life to the full is bad. Our fears should not imprison us in our minds or in our homes. Fear should not keep us from living our lives. We want to live in freedom to love God and our neighbor. We want the love of God to encourage and strengthen us. For God says perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). For those who are baptized, God has made us His children. As His children God wants us to live fully alive. Jesus says, “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10) So we want to live in this freedom, the abundant life that God wants to give us.
Besides speaking of natural fear, we also speak of the gift of fear being one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This comes from Isaiah 11:2-3, “a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” We know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. This is not because we are to fear God, but rather that we fear being separated from Him. We see the goodness of God and trust in His plan of salvation for us, through the forgiveness of our sins. If we live in constant fear of God and the punishment of God, we will live in a prison afraid to upset God. We would be too afraid to grow. In calling God Our Father, we know God to be the best of fathers. That God will help us to grow. As a good father God does not want nervous, frenetic children living in fear, afraid to act. The gift of the fear of the Lord helps us to grow as it keeps us close to God, because we do not want to be separated from Him.
In the Gospel of John Jesus says, “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.” Having been called into this great intimacy with God, we receive this gift of fear. God gives us this fear so that we will choose to respond with love to His invitation to love Him and to follow His commands.
Our desire is to say yes to our Heavenly Father and His designs for us. The gift of fear is accompanied by confidence and love. The gift of fear of God encourages us to place ourselves in God’s hands that He may keep us from sin. Over time desiring to be with God perfects our love of God.
Fr. Jeremy Bock