The ocean is one of my favorite things in the world. I even have a list of things that I love specifically about the ocean. Among those is standing on the beach at night, just looking out and listening to the waves. I feel joy, relaxation, and always a little bit of fear. In fact, I've found the more I stare at the ocean at night, the more terrifying it becomes.
But the fear is different than what we usually associate with being afraid ‐ it makes me feel small and not in control, and I am in awe of the power of nature. Nothing reminds me of God more than standing in front of the ocean at night.
This time both the Church and Dictionary.com are in agreement ‐ sometimes "fear" does not mean distress over an impending danger but rather "reverential awe." In other words, fear of the Lord is our response to His greatness, love, and mercy. Through the grace of this gift, we abandon ourselves to His fatherly love, forgiveness, and protection and grow in humility.
Now obviously there are things for which we should fear the Lord in a different sense ‐ mortal sin, for example. But this doesn't mean we blindly follow God because he will punish us if we don't. We still have the foundation of love and respect for the Lord, and it is because of this that we have a healthy fear of injuring and severing that relationship through sin.
In Psalms 34 it says,
"The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them."
Our God is not the rash, punishing god that is so often depicted in various misunderstandings of the Old Testament. He is merciful and loving. But just as a parent knows what's best for a child and often needs to discipline in order them to grow, so it is with God as He pours out His love and protects those who adore Him in reverential awe.
Do you have "reverential awe" for the Lord? In what areas could you ask the Holy Spirit to increase your fear of the Lord so you do not become indifferent in your behavior or relationship with him? Does thinking of the power of God terrify you or humble you in reverence?
Come Holy Spirit, enlighten my heart, that I may see the things that are of God.
Come Holy Spirit, into my mind that I may know the things that are of God.
Come Holy Spirit, into my soul, that I may belong only to God.
Sanctify all that I think, say, and do, that all may be for the glory of God.
Pope Francis' teaching: