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FEAR OF THE LORD

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD.

Be in your prayer space, follow the usual steps and settle into silence.

Take a couple of gentle, slow and deep breaths…becoming aware of your breath going in and out… stay focused on this breath of life……

Breathe in all that is of God and from God…all that is true, honest, pure, admirable, noble, decent, virtuous, worthy of praise, good, loving, kind – all that deserves respect..

Settle into silence, into peacefulness, into profound silence, into pure joy. Keep listening in quietness, stillness and serenity. Come to that place, that space within, that place of deep silence – Solitude…to just being here and now, without having to accomplish something.

Now I invite you to consecrate your time and all that come with this moment….in your own way, in humble, simple, may be even inadequate words………..

Every day that we wake up is a good day. Every breath that we take is filled with hope for a better day. Every word that we speak is a chance to change what is bad into something good….every moment of the day brings new opportunities and possibilities.

May this moment and all other coming moments open new doors for you and may God bless you with wisdom and courage to walk in faith, as you continue your journey of life!

Our meditation today is on the “Fear of the Lord”. The “fear of the Lord” should be translated as “the awe” of the Lord or may be a “reverential fear”, not the kind of fear that “freezes” a person but the kind of fear that “frees” a person and empowers the person with qualities that would move him/her to fidelity, loyalty, steadfastness, covenant love and to generous service.

The Book of Proverbs speaks of one of the characteristics of a worthy woman as “fear of the loved”. This “fear’ is not something that paralyzed her but moved her with courage and wisdom and other qualities. She is a gifted woman and graced by God with many talents and abilities which she uses for the benefit of her family and friends as well as for the poor and the needy (Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31).

The excerpt referenced above has been interpreted by many as a description of the qualities of an ideal wife. It does provide such insights. However, the worthy woman described here is the same woman, “lady wisdom” that the first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs spoke of. Wisdom, personified as a woman, welcomes all who seek her and offers them her (wisdom’s) skills and abilities in business dealings, in concern for social justice, in wise teaching and kindly counsel. Such wisdom does not paralyze a person, but moves the person to service. Such wisdom does not make a person bury his talent (as the man with one talent in the Gospel parable in Mathew 25:14-30), but invest it in a way that benefits him/her and others and offer it in generous service.

The Psalmist muses, “How blessed is the one fears the Lord and walks in His ways” (Psalm 128). Blessing is on the person who is totally committed to God in obedience. He is blessed because he has no other loyalties or worries or desires. He knows that other loyalties would distract him and he has no one else to please. The nations around him have many gods to please. Loyalty to the one true God, the God of the covenant, gives him freedom and joy. What else could he feel except feel “blessed”. This “fear of the Lord” that he speaks of is the fear of missing the mark, of missing the way of the Lord, of becoming disloyal, of losing the freedom and losing this gift of God’s favor, Grace”.

The Psalmist goes on to count his blessings: wife being fruitful like vine in the house, children like olive shoots around the table, seeing prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of life, seeing children’s children. What else could he feel, except “blessed”. And that is because he has the “Fear of the Lord”.

Our Poet uses several images: (1) Like fruitful vine – is symbol of fruitfulness. The blessing is that this man’s wife will be happy in mothering lots of children. A famous Rabbi wrote: “I never call my wife ‘my wife’. I call her ‘my home’, she who makes a home for my children. (2) Like olive shoots – is symbol of tender growth to be carefully and tenderly nurtured. (3) Around the table – is the symbol of family, fellowship, love and care…all of this because he has the “Fear of the Lord”.

Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
and who walk in his ways.
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
Blessed shall you be and favored.

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your home,
Your children like young olive plants
around your table.
Just so will the man be blessed
who fears the LORD.

May the LORD bless you from Zion;

may you see Jerusalem’s prosperity
all the days of your life,
and live to see your children’s children.
Peace upon Israel!

The fear of the Lord is an attitude of respect, a response of reverence, amazement and wonder and not being scared to act or to choose or to move.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the King who entrusted three of his servants with different “amounts” for investment according to their abilities.
Two of them took the risk of investing what was given to them. They risked all they were given and gained as much as they invested. The third servant risked nothing and gained nothing because, according to him, he was afraid. Fear paralyzed him. He failed to use what he had and lost even the little he had. This is the fear that is debilitating and demeaning and makes one afraid to choose to act, to follow a plan or to take personal initiatives. The “fear of the Lord” on the other had is the “fear” that makes one free to act, to be determined, to move forward, to persevere, to keep going ins spite of and with “fears and doubts and anxieties”.

In the above cited parable, the one who was afraid to risk and invest was treated as “worthless” and cast into the darkness outside because he failed to act, to invest what was entrusted to him. Some of us can relate to this from personal experience and some of us know a friend or colleague who is convinced that he/she has so little to offer that it wouldn’t make much difference to do anything with the little that is available.

The one talent in the hand is just one talent, one dollar in the hand is just one dollar, the little remains little in one’s hand, but when invested unlimited possibilities are open. Invest the talent you have and give it a chance to grow and become more. Instead of digging a hole to bury the talent, use the energy to let the talent grow…..choose service to safety…..risk to retreat. The parable invites us to recognize the “one” talent, the little that is available, not to let fear and doubt and complacency paralyze us and to let the “fear of the Lord” make us free to let our talents grow.

The Psalmist says, “He guides me along the right path; He is true to his name. If I should walk in the valley of darkness, no evil would I fear. You are there with your crook and your staff; with these you give me comfort” (Psalm 23).

Remember the story of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). The Philistines gathered their forces for war with the Israelites.  A champion named Goliath came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span (nine feet and nine inches).  He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back.  His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.”  On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. When the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear! David, son of Jesse, said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” Davis took a stand, ready to face the enemy!

Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

But David said to Saul, “The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

David took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. He  said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.  All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

David, reached into his bag, took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground. So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him. When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran…fear is contagious!
Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines.

David had courage to face the enemy because he had the “fear of the Lord”. Most of us experience fears and doubts and anxieties at different points in our lives.

St. Francis De Sales advises us:

Be at Peace. Do not look forward in fear to the changes of life; rather look to them with full hope as they arise. God, whose very own you are, will deliver you from out of them. He has kept you hitherto, and He will lead you safely through all things; and when you cannot stand it, God will bury you in his arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father who cares for you today
will take care of you then and every day. He will either shield you from suffering, or will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imagination.

Fr. Gus Tharappel, msfs