On the Fear of God

"This is the fear of God: abandonment into the goodness of our Father who loves us so"

Vatican City, (Zenit.org) | 1680 hits

Here is a translation of Pope Francis' address during the General Audience this morning in St. Peter's Square.

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THE HOLY FATHER’S CATECHESIS IN ITALIAN

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning.

The gift of the fear of God, of which we speak today, concludes the series of seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. It does not mean to be afraid of God: we know well that God is Father, and that He loves us and wants our salvation, and He always forgives, always, so that there is no reason to be afraid of Him! The fear of God, instead, is the gift of the Spirit that reminds us how little we are before God and His love, and that our good lies in abandoning ourselves with humility, with respect and with trust into His hands. This is the fear of God: abandonment into the goodness of our Father who loves us so.

1. When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart, he infuses in us consolation and peace, and leads us to see ourselves as we are, namely, little, with the attitude – so recommended by Jesus in the Gospel – of one who entrusts all is preoccupations and expectations to God and feels enveloped and sustained by His warmth and His protection, in fact, as a child with his Daddy! This is what the Holy Spirit does in our hearts: He makes us feel like children in the arms of our Daddy. In this connection, then, we understand well how the fear of God assumes in us the form of docility, of gratitude and praise, filling our heart with hope. Often, in fact, we fail to grasp God’s design, and we are aware that we are not capable of ensuring happiness and eternal life for ourselves. It is, in fact, in the experience of our limitations and of our poverty, however, that the Spirit confronts us and makes us perceive how the only important thing is to let ourselves be led by Jesus into his Father’s arms.

2. See why we are in such great need of this gift of the Holy Spirit. Fear of God makes us aware that everything comes from grace and that our real strength lies only in following the Lord Jesus and allowing the Father to pour His goodness and mercy on us. We must open our heart so that God’s goodness and mercy will come to us. The Holy Spirit does this with the gift of the fear of God: He opens hearts. An open heart so that the Father’s forgiveness, mercy, goodness, and caresses come to us, because we are infinitely loved children.

3. When we are permeated by the fear of God, then we are led to follow the Lord with humility, docility and obedience. This, however, not with a resigned, passive even mournful attitude, but with the wonder and joy of a child who sees himself served and loved by his Father. Hence, the fear of God does not make us timid, compliant Christians,but it generates in us courage and strength! It is a gift that makes us convinced, enthusiastic Christians, who are not subjected to the Lord out of fear, but because we are moved and conquered by His love! To be conquered by the love of God! And this is something lovely. To let ourselves be conquered by this Daddy’s love, who so loves us, who loves us with His whole heart.

However, we must be careful, because this gift of God, the gift of the fear of God is also an “alarm” in face of the tenaciousness of sin. When a person lives in evil, when he blasphemes against God, when he exploits others, when he tyrannizes them, when he lives only for money, for vanity or power or pride, then the holy fear of God puts us on alert: be careful! With all this power, with all this money, with all your pride, with all your vanity, you will not be happy. No one can take with him to the other side money, or power, or vanity or pride. Nothing! We can only take the love that God the Father gives us, God’s caresses, accepted and received by us with love. And we can take what we have done for others. Be careful not to put your hope in money, in pride, in power, in vanity, because all this cannot promise us anything good! I am thinking, for instance, of persons who have responsibility over others and who allow themselves to be corrupted; do you think a corrupt person will be happy on the other side? No, all the fruit of his corruption has corrupted his heart and it will be difficult for him to go to the Lord. I am thinking of those who live from the traffic of persons and of slave labor; do you think that these people who traffic in persons, who exploit people with slave labor have the love of God in their heart? No, they do not have the fear of God and they are not happy.

They are not. I am thinking of those who manufacture arms to foment wars, but think what an occupation this is. I am sure that if I now ask the question: how many of you are manufacturers of arms? No one, no one. Manufacturers of arms do not come to hear the Word of God. They manufacture death, they are merchants of death and make death merchandise. May the fear of God make them understand that one day everything will end and they will have to render an account to God.

Dear friends, Psalm 34 makes us pray thus: “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them” (vv. 7-8).

Let us ask the Lord for the grace to unite our voice to that of the poor, to receive the gift of fear of God and to be able to recognize ourselves, together with them, clothed with the mercy and love of God, who is our Father, our Daddy. So be it.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

SUMMARY OF THE CATECHESIS IN ENGLISH

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our catechesis on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, we now turn to the last of these gifts: fear of the Lord. We know that this is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realization that only in him do our hearts find true peace. Through the fear of the Lord, we become, as Jesus asks us, like little children, trusting in the goodness and the protection of our heavenly Father. The Spirit enables us to persevere in loving obedience to the word of God. Fear of the Lord is also a kind of "alarm", awakening us to the presence of sin in our lives and reminding us that we will one day be held accountable to the just Judge. When we begin to use other people, to live for money and empty pleasure alone, blaspheming God’s name and allowing ourselves to be corrupted, this spiritual gift comes to our aid and directs us to the right path. Today let us pray that the fear of God, together with the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, will renew us in faith and constantly remind us that in God alone do we find our ultimate happiness, freedom and fulfilment.

I greet all the English-speaking pilgrims taking part in today’s Audience, including those from England and Wales, Scotland, Sweden, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Japan, the Philippines, Australia and the United States. Upon all of you, and upon your families, I invoke the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus and the manifold gifts of the Holy Spirit. God bless you all!

GREETING IN ITALIAN

I give a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking faithful. I am happy to receive the participants in the Congress on Ethics and Finance being held at the Augustinianum – finance is truly in need of ethics today --, and in the Seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for the Family. I greet the faithful of Castel San Giovanni, who are observing the centenary of the birth of Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, a good man was this Casaroli! The pilgrimage of detainees along the Via Francigena and that of cyclists of the “Mi so tuto” Association on the streets of Saint Francis.

In addition, I greet the military men, the families associated with the “Children in Heaven” school of prayer and the workers of the FIAT establishment of Pomigliano d’Arco. I hope for all that the visit to the Tombs of the Apostles will arouse in each one renewed resolutions of joyful Christian witness in the family and in society.

A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. In the month of June the liturgy invites us to pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May this devotion teach you, dear young people, especially the engaged of the diocese of Oria, accompanied by their bishop, Monsignor Vincenzo Pisanello, to love with the same intensity; may it render you strong, dear sick, in bearing with patience the cross of suffering; and may it be your support, dear newlyweds, in building your family on fidelity and the fear of God.

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]

THE HOLY FATHER’S APPEAL

Tomorrow, June 12, the World Day against the Exploitation of Child Labor will be observed. Tens of thousands of children, did you hear that? Tens of thousands are constrained to work in degrading conditions, exposed to forms of slavery and exploitation, as well as of abuses, maltreatment and discriminations.

I earnestly hope that the international community will be able to extend the social protection of minors, to eradicate this plague of exploitation of children. Let us all renew our commitment, in particular families, to guarantee every child the safeguarding of their dignity and the possibility of healthy growth. A serene childhood enables children to look at life and the future with confidence. I invite you all to pray to Our Lady, who held the Child Jesus in her arms, for these children who are exploited with work and also with abuses. Ave Maria ...

[Original text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]