Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily Feb. 12 at St. Joseph Church in Conway.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” according to the book of Proverbs. It is also the seventh gift of the Holy Spirit.
Indeed, not only is it the seventh gift, it is the gift that contains all the rest. This gift will keep you on the right path in time of temptation when everything else fails, but it is a lot more than just that. You receive this gift today, so let’s take a look at what this means and what you need to access this gift going forward.
The “fear” referred to here is the opposite of the emotion of fear we experience when we feel threatened. Satan is an expert at manipulating that kind of fear, but God doesn’t operate that way.
For instance, Satan sometimes causes us to fear things that really are no threat and thus uses the emotion of fear to blind us and turn us against one another. That’s the root of the fear-mongering against the weak and vulnerable that is so evident in today’s world, to the point that many now fear that anyone who is different is somehow a threat to us.
“The fear of the Lord” that is the beginning of wisdom is just the opposite. It helps us see things through God’s eyes, and thus turns us toward each other, with special concern for the weak and vulnerable and those who are different.
You know, if “the fear of the Lord” were about the emotion of fear, that would contradict everything Jesus had to say about God being a God of love who expects us to love like God loves. Like a God who was willing to sacrifice everything most precious to him — his own Son — to save us. So while human fear might help us to be careful when faced with real threats — not imaginary ones — and to keep us on the right path in time of temptation — fear of getting caught, fear of consequences — that’s a start, but it’s not the kind of fear that is the beginning of wisdom. You already have that kind of fear.
The kind of fear of the Lord that you receive as a gift of the Holy Spirit is much more than that. It is a “disposition” rather than just an emotion. It is a way of seeing the world through God’s eyes, rather than with merely human calculation. It involves drawing on our faith a source of God-given understanding, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Empowered with God-given courage when faced with challenges, another gift of the Holy Spirit, rather than just reacting to challenges out of ignorance and even cowardice. This disposition, this approach to life, is marked by all seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. But the foundation is “the fear of the Lord” — making the doing of God’s will our no. 1 goal every single day.
To do this, we need to draw on the gift of piety you receive today: praying to him every single morning at the beginning of your day, asking him to help you see things through his eyes with wisdom and understanding. This means also asking him in prayer at the start of your day to help you weigh the choices to be made that day with the gift of counsel you receive today and then to give you the fortitude you will need to do what is right, including the courage to speak the truth, even in the face of opposition or when, God forbid, it may reflect unfavorably on yourself. Humility is another gift of the Holy Spirit, even if not part of this list of seven gifts.
In any event, notice that this kind of fear — the fear of the Lord — really is a GIFT with capital letters. This gift empowers you not only to live for something bigger than yourself — many worthwhile ideals will do that. But more than just that, the fear of the Lord will unite your will to that of God who wants nothing other than your happiness and well-being.
Indeed he wants this for you far more than anyone else does because his very nature is love, and his love is without limit. He has a plan for your life which you will discover if you draw on the gifts you receive today and dedicate yourself to making the doing of his will the no. 1 priority in your life.
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