“Never fear the final judgment, because Christ will always be at our side.”
I’m just going to let that quote sit up there, and after you are done reading this, you can go back and re-read what Pope Francis, South American Jesuit and Child of the late 1960s and early 1970s, said again and then ponder it all in your hearts.
Fear of the Lord is utterly, utterly essential. If you do not fear God, then the odds are that you don’t actually love and worship God at all, but rather a mere idea, philosophy or imaginary friend that you call “god” or “jesus”, that you have made up out of whole cloth in your own head, which is to say when you boil it down to brass tacks, you are worshiping yourself.
There are two types of fear that need to be defined. The two types of fear are SERVILE FEAR and FILIAL FEAR. Let’s start with SERVILE FEAR. Servile fear is the fear we must have of God because He is, well, GOD. He is all-powerful. He is all-knowing. He made you, atom by atom. He sustains you, and the entire universe. He made it, and if He decided to do it, He could snuff the whole kit-and-caboodle out of existence whenever He felt like it. The laws of physics are His to break whenever He feels like it. He is perfectly good and perfectly just. He is incomprehensible. He is pure love, pure beauty, pure truth. He is reality itself. He is infinitely powerful, infinitely strong. He knows all. He sees all. He contains all. HE. IS. GOD.
He is God, and we are not. He is infinite, and we are teeny, tiny, puny little finite specks. Therefore, we stand, kneel and fall down on our faces trembling in awe before Him. If you view God as a nebulous “life-force”, or a kindly, doddering old man in the sky, or an indifferent “watchmaker”, or your “buddy”, then you had better get your mind right post haste. Fear Him because He could snuff you out of existence, or even more terrifying, give you exactly what you deserve and cast you into hell, eternally separated from Him and His loving goodness, to rot alone for all eternity. If you do not have a servile fear of The Lord, then dollars to doughnuts says you don’t actually worship God, but rather yourself.
Now FILIAL FEAR. Filial fear can best be described as the fear of breaking someone’s heart by disappointment. God loves you. Infinitely. He knows your every thought, word and deed. He knows you better than you know yourself, because He cuts through all of the lies and delusions that we saturate ourselves with, thus blinding us to our true selves. This works in both directions. Not only can God see how truly awful we are; how manipulative, how dishonest, how prideful, how narcissistic, and how selfish we are; He can also see how wonderful we are. After all, He doesn’t make mistakes. Every person He creates in His own likeness and image. He sees you as He created you to be. To make an analogy, let’s take a person that is universally agreed to be physically beautiful. I dunno. Brad Pitt in his prime. Okay. Go with that. Let’s say that “Brad Pitt in his prime” is beautiful. Now, take “Brad Pitt in his prime” and cover him in dirt and grease, unwashed, unkempt, smelly and dirty. We know what Brad Pitt would look like if he was perfectly clean, and it is very, very good. So, in a sense, no matter how dirty and nasty you make “Brad Pitt in his prime”, we can still see through the dirt and grease, and we still know how beautiful he is under all of the filth and disorder. This is why God continues to love us no matter how much we sin, and thus why His mercy is always available and inexhaustible. A parent does not stop loving a child when they are dirty or sick. Parental love is likewise a reflection of God’s love for us.
So, knowing this, and knowing what God freely chose to do for us in His Incarnation, Passion and Death; knowing that God is Our Father, Brother and Divine Spouse, how can we not fear breaking His Most Sacred Heart? How can we not fear disappointing Him? How can we not fear nailing him to the Cross as He freely takes upon Himself all of our sins? What kind of a psychopath would one have to be to delude one’s self into believing that since one is “saved” one can now sin without care or worry since God is now “contractually obliged” to forgive you and receive you into heaven? Um, what about the Second Person of the Triune Godhead? What about Jesus Christ, scourged, crucified and dying? WHAT ABOUT THE FACT THAT EVERY ONE OF YOUR SINS BREAKS OUR LORD’S SACRED HEART? Do you care? Does that bother you? Do you even think about it? If you think salvation is a mere contract and that you need not worry about your sins, then you are completely lacking in FILIAL FEAR.
It is thought that at the Particular Judgment of every person, they are made to recount their entire lives and see how their thoughts, words and deeds conformed to God in his perfect goodness. Terrifyingly, we will also have to see the agony and suffering that Our Lord endured in His Passion and Death for us. We will somehow be made to know exactly how we made Him suffer, and how we wounded Him.
Fear this. Live every second of your life in fear of this. This fear is what will keep you from sin, and when you do sin, will make you truly sorry and get you into the confessional to beg for God’s mercy and pardon. This fear is what will help you navigate your way through this fallen world, this outpost of hell, with all of hell’s spawn roaming free and seeking the ruin of your soul. Fear the day when you will stand before Perfect Love, whipped until He is skinned and nailed to a tree FOR YOU.
Now, some might say that fearing God can only lead to a reduction in intimacy with Him. This is wrong, Wrong, WRONG. As intimacy with Our Lord increases, so does the filial fear. The more you know Him, and the more you love Him, the more you desire to NOT disappoint Him, much less nail Him to the Cross. We experience this dynamic amongst each other. We essentially don’t care what a stranger on the street thinks of us, but we certainly care about what someone we love thinks of us, and care more yet about what someone we are in love with thinks of us. The greater the love, the greater the filial fear.
Likewise, the more we ponder God’s enormousness, His vastness, His infinite depth and power, thus engendering a healthy and completely appropriate SERVILE FEAR, the more we then appreciate His Incarnation and the tenderness with which He loves us, which in turn leads us to greater filial fear. If God is just a big Golden Retriever in the Sky, or a conglomeration of the laws of physics, or a mere subset of your consciousness, then really, what does it matter? What does sin matter to a celestial pet, the laws of physics, or to you in the form of an imaginary friend?
Fear the Judgment. Fear our Awesome God. Fear the day when you are made to see and understand what exactly it is that you have done to Him. And then, avail yourself of His Infinite Mercy and Love through His Holy Church. Whining to your friends or a therapist, or to yourself in your head is NOT the Sacrament of Confession. Going to a rock concert/motivational speaking event on Sunday mornings is NOT the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. “Fellowship” is NOT reception of the physical substance of Our Lord into your body and soul in the Eucharist.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A good understanding to all that do it: His praise continueth for ever and ever.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is prudence.