From the HouseTops, Catholic Magazine

Saint Benedict Magazine

Fear Of God

by Tilmann Pesch, S.J.

Fear Of God
Fear Of God

We are told that the one motive which ought to inspire the Christian soul in the battle with sin is the love of God, and that it is an ignoble thing to refrain from sin out of fear of Divine retribution. Yet Christ Himself and the saints judged otherwise. The Lord bids us: Fear Him that can destroy both soul and body in Hell. (Matt. 10:28), and the Apostle Paul reminds us that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil. 2:12).   Many saints, in common with Saint Augustine, have declared that frequent meditation upon death, judgment and Hell, was needed to ensure their steadfast perseverance in good.   The fear of God in no way runs counter to the love of God. Those saints whose dominant characteristic was the fervor of their love towards God were ever the most profoundly alive to the fear of His judgments.   

Our nature stands in need of an element that is stern, earnest and inflexible. Let the most generous love of God be poured forth like gold into the matrix of your life, but forget not to blend with it that mighty iron element—the fear of God.   Man is like a child who must necessarily be disciplined. The fear of punishment is a wholesome element in the upbringing of the young.   If fear is to be salutary, it must put a barrier between the soul and sin, and embrace within itself some first beginnings of love.   Fear springs instinctively from the consideration of eternal truths; it is our task to purify and quicken it, seeing how greatly it conduces to our soul’s welfare. The fear of God leads us to acknowledge and glorify God. It is grounded, not on reason alone, but on faith in Divine revelation, and has reference to a Divine perfection, that is, to God’s avenging justice.   The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; the fear of suffering is ingrained in every sentient being. Wisdom’s primary injunction to you is: Fear nothing but what is rightly to be feared.  

In many circumstances, fear has a greater compelling power than love. Where the fear of sin reigns, sin can have no access. Fear banishes levity as a threatening storm scatters the idle gossipers at the street corner.   Man’s entire being must be dedicated and impelled to the service of God. Here is the task of fear. How many and great are the sacrifices and labors which a man is prepared to face under the influence of fear!   Frequent consideration of the “Four Last Things,” (Death, Judgement, Heaven or Hell) will teach us above all else to fear that which is in itself the greatest of evils.   The natural fruits of fear are self conquest, mortification, the spirit of sacrifice, watchfulness and discretion.