Do You Know Who You Are in the Fear of the Lord?

Today we celebrate Pentecost when God gifted, confirmed, us with the Holy Spirit. Jesus, appearing to the apostles in a locked upper room where they were hiding in fear for their lives, entered, offered a blessing, and breathed on them.

This life-giving breath is the Holy Spirit, imbued with charity, which is the perpetual relational outpouring of love shared between the Father and the Son.

There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord, but perhaps the most challenging to understand is the last. If scripture entreats us to not be afraid, if Saint Pope John Paul II repeatedly lovingly invites us to do the same, why does this gift seem contradictory?

As Father Gregory and Father Patrick discuss in this podcast, St. Thomas Aquinas listed three types of fear: worldly, servile, and filial. While calling us to address different forms of fear in our lives, all three point to this Gift of the Holy Spirit, which ultimately invites us into relationship with God. We are not meant to simply fear Him for our sinfulness, but rather this is a fear which more specifically coexists with our right reverence for Him.

In other words, our fear of losing things, social standing, punishment, and ultimately disappointing God should order us understand that God is greater than all these fears. This Gift reminds us that He has the power to heal all suffering in ways we cannot understand. Fear of the Lord invites us to rest in Him always; to love him as Father and redeemer in whom “we live and move and have our being” Acts 17:28).

Do You Know Who You Are? God Reveals Himself to Us in the Darkness

Father Blount reminds us that it is in the darkness, in our suffering, even when we feel abandoned and lost to ourselves, we are not orphans. We are His. We belong to God. Jesus tells us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18). In our despair and loneliness, we might not see God. We might feel separated from Him. But Jesus reminds us, “Before long…you will see me. Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).

When it is dark, when we can’t see, let us cry out to God who is always calling us to communion with Him. He is with us. In Him we shall be made whole and be healed.

Wherefore Power?

How often do we refer to the parent-child relationship as a power struggle? Who has the power? The bigger, louder, sometimes out-of-control grown-up, or the smaller weaker, sometimes out-of-control kid? When a toddler throws a tantrum, who has the power? The screaming parent or the shrieking child who’s pulling the posters off his wall?

When a parent is angry and yelling, and the child is quiet and intimidated, who holds it then? There seems to be little doubt who holds more power. But is this so? Superficially, yes. But it is pretty evident that this is not only misused power, but it is also at the very least ineffective and at the worst destructive in the long term.

What about when a child is angry and screaming and the parent is evasive, unavailable, and non-responsive? Who holds the power then? Now the child is in charge, as it were. But this can be destructive too, can’t it? A cowering parent and an aggressive child is also a destructive dynamic in which neither party feels heard and seen and understood. This doesn’t lead to evolution either.

So what of these power struggles? Power itself is not inherently bad. It is how we interpret and use power that matter most. In other words, power over another always leads to the devaluing of the other, as well as the toxic inflation of the one in control.

Empowerment of self, however, well that’s another thing altogether. To be self-empowered, to be fully present to one’s own voice and truth, is to align with nothing less than one’s highest truth. And this truth, in its essence, is love. It is eternal. It is the continuous infilling and outpouring of itself.

In every relationship, then, even in the dance that is the parent-child dynamic, if one uses power to exert her will on another, this is not love. If one tries to control or manipulate the other, this power is not love. It is only through empowerment, indeed fulfillment, of self that we can be in the presence of our parent or child (the “other”) and find alignment, regardless of the conditions the other presents.

Love can only exist when the scorching destructive flames of power give way to the cooling life-giving waters of freedom and evolution.