Fostering a Holy Fear

User’s Guide to Sunday, June 25

May we fear the right thing; in this case, the right One.
May we fear the right thing; in this case, the right One. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, June 25, is the 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Jeremiah 20:10-13; Psalm 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35; Romans 5:12-15; Matthew 10:26-33.

The Lord speaks to us today of one of the most central struggles in our life: fear. 

Too easily, we major in the minors of life; we get all worked up about passing things but do not have a sober and reverent fear of eternal things. We often fear sinful and weak human beings, but not God, who is just, who sees all, and who will assign us our eternal destiny.

“Jesus said to the Twelve: ‘Fear not … those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.’” 

Jesus is clear: Fear no man. 

The worst thing a human being can do to you is to kill you. Even if that happens, if you are faithful, dying is the path to heaven; it’s a maximum promotion! 

Maybe people can steal your things or make your brief life here decidedly unpleasant, but life does not consist of our possessions or personal peace. 

Jesus teaches very provocatively, “… rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” This cannot be Satan because Satan is not our judge. Although he can tempt us, he has no authority to determine our final destiny. Scripture says that Satan, our accuser, has been cast out (see Revelation 12:10). 

Scripture says, “The Father judges no one, but has consigned all judgment to the Son, that the world may revere him” (John 5:22). 

Many people are uncomfortable thinking of the Lord in this way. They prefer to think of him as an affable fellow, a harmless hippie. This is simply not what Scripture teaches. The proper fear is a reverential fear that remembers God’s love for us and his desire to save us. God is who he is, and heaven is what it is. 

Jesus adds, “There is nothing that is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. … Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” 

Our fear is going to have an outcome for either good or ill. 

If we have the wrong fear (fearing man more than God), it will likely lead us to silence and even outright denial of God and his truth before others. Fearing the opinion of the world and human beings more than God often makes us silent and too easily conformed to a world opposed to him.

“What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops”: The Lord is summoning us to speak fearlessly to the world on account of a holy fear of him. What about you? Do you speak the word of God to an often-scoffing world? Or do you fear the world more than God, and, therefore, stay silent, hiding out? 

May we fear the right thing; in this case, the right One. 

Here is what Jesus teaches: Do not fear man. 

Rather, have a holy reverent fear of God. 

Get fear right. Stop getting so anxious about what mere mortals think of you. Fear the Lord; acknowledge him before men and proclaim his word, and you will be acknowledged greatly by him in heaven.