VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 1, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Here is another of the reflections presented during the June videoconference of theologians entitled “Pneumatology from the Second Vatican Council to Our Times.” It was 11th such videoconference sponsored by the Congregation for the Clergy.
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The Gift of Fear of the Lord
Professor Gerhard-Ludwig Müller, Munich, Germany
“Timor Domini — initium sapientiae” (Psalm 110:10)
These words from the Bible tell us that fearing the Lord and recognizing his sovereignty and omnipotence are for mankind the beginning of self-knowledge. Mankind must learn to correctly judge itself with regards to God. If mankind meditates well about its contingency and caducity, then mankind will be protected from haughtiness, which always precedes defeat.
The anxiety and fear that affect man when he reflects on his futility from the beginning until the end of his existence are transformed into fear and respect for the Lord, filled with wonder and admiration. Nothing can frighten you, says St. Teresa of Avila, because he who follows God, possesses everything. Because God’s love is present in Jesus Christ, and neither death nor evil will any longer be capable of damaging mankind (see Romans 8:39).
When facing God, his creator and [redeemer], man loses all servile fear and dread (“timor servilis”) and achieves the joyful knowledge of God’s sovereignty (“timor Dei filialis”), which is an ocean of love (John of Damascus).
It is the very Spirit that has filled our hearts and that makes us say to God “Abba! Father!” (see Galatians 4:4-6; Romans 8:15) and that also includes the fear of God in the seven gifts of the Spirit (see Isaiah 11:2).
Fearing the Lord allows one to preserve a correct relation between the detachment and the closeness of the creatures to God. God is neither omnipotence without love, nor the cause of fear and terror, nor love that wishes to annul the difference between the Creator and the creatures. Only this way can man be saved from the experience of total futility facing an arbitrary God, and, at the same time, also from wanting to centralize God’s attention on his own selfish intents and ends.
With the spiritual gift of the fear of the Lord in his heart, the disciple understands the words spoken by Jesus during the washing of the feet in the hall at the Cenacle: “You hail me as the Master and the Lord; and you are right, it is what I am” (John 13:14). And he begins to understand God’s love, “who so loved the world, that he gave up his only-begotten Son, so that those who believe in him may not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Therefore we are no longer dependent or slaves to guilt, but friends of Christ and the heirs to eternal life.