Fear of the Lord
The Hebrew word ‘yare’ means has two meanings, the first is: [to be afraid/to dread] and the second is [to have awe/respect], the Greek word ‘phobeō’ has the same two meanings – and even the English word ‘fear’ as both meanings. Look it up in the dictionary.
At the end of the reading from Malachi today we see the use of the word ‘yare’ that, at first glance might seem to mean [afraid/dread], but really is used with the second meaning [awe/repect]. ‘But for you who fear my name, there will arisethe sun of justice with its healing rays.’
Our lives, especially in our practice of our faith should be based on this definition of ‘fear’ – awe/respect. We should at all times hold our God in that regard, we should continuously look to Him in all our actions because we hold him in such high esteem, strive to be like Him, and hope to never let Him down. As we would with a revered teacher, mentor, parent, loved one – but more so for He is our creator.
Do not prepare
With this in mind, today’s Gospel is both imminent and timeless. What we hear from Jesus about how we will be treated seems very current; but it is also timeless because no matter what age we live in people will always push back against the Gospel. It is also ominous and comforting. Even though we will meet with persecution in varying forms – that we must carry the cross; Jesus tells us that He will not leave us alone.
But today, remembering the words of Malachi, I want to focus on these Gospel lines:
Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand,
for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking
that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute.
We don’t prepare answers; preparing means, taking our own ideas and using them. We saw in Luke 9:51-56 an example, when the disciples wanted to call fire down upon a village in response to their not welcoming Jesus. Jesus rebukes them – this is not the defense needed. His mission while walking on earth was to prepare them for the true answer, the best defense – His answer of love.
However, not preparing an answer doesn’t mean not understanding, learning. If we are to be open to Christ’s answer we need build that relationship between Him and us. In any relationship we need to get to know the other better in order to grow in the relationship. It is no different with our relationship with God whom we fear – hold in awe/respect. And to grow in our relationship we need to grow in our understanding of God, of His mystical body – the Church; we need to open our hearts and minds to His communication; learn about Him, study the Faith. We need to talk and listen to Him in prayer; participate with Him in the sacraments especially Mass with a full participation, both with God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit and with each other through Christ.
In other words, come to understand He whom we fear; learn what God has given us; learn what the Church teaches us. Bring to our lives the memory of salvation – the gift of ultimate Love. God never tires in delivering His gift of salvation, the only question is our response, our attitude towards this memory of salvation.
So let us ask ourselves; do we have a correct memory of this gift of Salvation? The Holy Father asked in a homily this past October: ‘is this memory close to us? Or is it a distant memory, a bit diffused, a bit archaic, as if it were in a museum. When the memory is not close to us, when we no longer experience the memory, it slowly turns into ‘mere recollection’.’ He continued: ‘When the memory comes, it does two things: it warms the heart and gives us joy… It is an event of salvation, an encounter with the love of God who has made history with us and has saved us. It is so beautiful that we have been saved, and we must celebrate this.’ He finished.
Indeed we must celebrate this memory, this living memory that affects us each moment of our life. Pope Francis says for us to hold it close. We must wade in to the deep and allow this memory to flood our being, for it is the primal memory of our souls. When we do this, when we allow this memory of He who we fear to fill us, our lives become one of constant communion with God, we hunger for a better understanding of our Savior, and we grow in the attitude of Christ – we will need no preparation for those we encounter, God is with us and He will fulfill His promise from the Gospel: ‘for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute’; even Hell will have no recourse to our wisdom for it will be God’s – and Hell fears God in the first meaning of the word.