Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fear of the Lord: Ancient, Timeless Wisdom

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014:

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2014

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
November 16, 2014

Our Catholic Christian tradition teaches us that happiness and friendship and marriage should all be based on a healthy loving fear of the Lord. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the psalmist expresses it very simply and poetically. "Blessed are those who fear the Lord," and then he explains what, exactly, that means: "to fear of the Lord is to walk in his ways." This is the wisdom of the ages. It is the perennial principle of human happiness. And it is the foundation of true success in marriage.

To fear the Lord is to walk in his ways. How blessed are those who fear the Lord! Those who fear the Lord are to be praised! Some kinds of fear are good, and some kinds of fear are bad. Bad fear should be resisted. Good fear should be encouraged. To fear the Lord is to understand that the meaning of life is to love God and to seek his ways. To fear the Lord is to appreciate the unsurpassable value of faith in God and faith in the son of God. To fear the Lord is to live a sacrificial life for others in imitation of the one who sacrifices himself for us on the cross.

But this way of life must begin at home. It begins in the context of marriage and family, and the family must always have priority in the spiritual life. We must sacrifice ourselves first of all for those who are closest to us, for those we love the most. The husband sacrifices himself for his wife. The wife sacrifices herself for her husband. As parents, they sacrifice themselves for their children. To fear the Lord is to see the beauty in the sacredness of this sacrificial way of life. Our faith enables us to see what the world does not appreciate: the sacredness of marriage, and the beauty of a life that is lived for one's family.

What exactly does that look like, a life lived for one's family? In our society we are surrounded with many models of infidelity and unfaithfulness. We are constantly confronted with out right violations of marriage and family, and we see many family relationships breaking down and falling apart. It's easy to become kind of skeptical about the whole idea. But we know how it's supposed to work. Deep down in our hearts, we know how it is supposed to be. And our faith tells us how it's supposed to be.

In the first reading, the book of Proverbs speaks of the woman who has true wisdom. How does this woman live her life? How does she spend her time? What does she value? What makes her happy? Does she live for herself or for her family? Well, let's see. She obtains wool and flax, and makes cloth with skillful hands. She reaches out her hand to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come. She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel. She watches over the conduct of her household, and she does not eat her food in idleness. She is resourceful and productive. Her children rise up and praise her, and her husband extols her. The woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her a reward for her labors, and let her works praise her at the city gates.

Of course, the Scriptures affirm the very same truths about the husbands. The man of wisdom is the one who works hard for his family, and is faithful to his wife. The man of wisdom is the one who avoids worldly allurements, and controls his unruly impulses. The man of wisdom is the one who fears the Lord, and spends his free time going to church and studying the law of the Lord. The man of wisdom is the one who accepts hardships, stays humble, mourns over his own sins and the sins of others, hungers for righteousness, shows mercy to those who have wronged him, keeps his mind and heart clean, and works to bring his family and friends closer to God. This is the wisdom of the ages, the wisdom that our society has lost and thinks it doesn't need.

The foundation of our society is marriage and family. In the foundation of marriage and the family is a healthy fear of the Lord. The fear the Lord is the key to wisdom, the key to a successful and productive life, and the key to happiness in this life, and the next. If we truly believe this, then we actively and constantly restructure our lives so that they revolve around the walking in the ways of the Lord. And very soon, we discovered that it is not going to be easy. We may find that we are insulted and persecuted, and marginalized and excluded, because we have committed ourselves to a Christian set of values and the Christian way of life.

Is our Lord demanding? Yes, because he is Truth and Goodness, and Truth and Goodness are demanding. We have to stay awake and alert. We have to work hard to stay sober. We have to be good and faithful servants. We have to use the gifts and talents Lord has given us.

The more we use the gifts and talents he has given us, the more gifts and talents he gives us. They're given to us for others.

All he asks is that we remain faithful in small matters. All he asks is that we follow his ways in the details of our lives. All we have to do is lead a quiet life and do the work he has given us to do. All we have to do is put ourselves at the service of our families and friends with the resources he has given us.

His demands are reasonable. In the face of such demand, the wrong kind of fear will lead us to protect ourselves, abandon our duties, and live for ourselves. But the right kind of fear will lead us to abandon ourselves, accept our duties, and live for others.

You'll notice now that I close with a little different closure, that I have been have been doing in the past because the New Evangelization requires that we use words.

So you all be Good, be Holy preached the Gospel always using Words and Holy Actions.

'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.

More reflections:
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2 comments:

Reconciled To You said...

I think every good homily should be available on the internet :))) Thanks for the post & link up!

Brian Gill said...

My pleasure, Reconciled To You.

And heartily agreed, about good homilies. Happily, my father-in-law does his from a script: so it's a simple matter of sending the text as an email attachment.

Our previous parish priest's homilies were often fine works - but he could work from a sparse outline, with no written text.

Transcription from speech is very labor-intensive: and very much a learned skill.

More to the point, thank you for your good words.

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