What is Fear of the Lord?
one of the great misunderstood words - but needed to accept God's saving mercy
The Mystery of Fear
Fear of the Lord is one of those topics the evil one has been successful at deceiving us with. Yet, without it, we are dead. Let me explain.
There are many different kinds of “fear” spoken about in the Word and by the saints, and if we don’t know what kind of fear it is they are addressing, we will be greatly confused and possibly follow a wrong path and/or misguide others too.
This, multiple definitions of the same word (homonym), occurs with many words in the Bible, but “fear” is one of the greatly misunderstood ones that is vital to understand and possess for salvation.
For example: Pope St. John Paul II says we must always have fear on our minds to avoid sin, and St. Padrie Pio says to leave fear and worry behind.
What! Are saints contradicting each other? Not at all, if we think they are, we are simply lacking knowledge to understand what kind of fear they are speaking about.
But not to worry, God willing, after you read this article, you will understand the mystery behind “fear” and know just how important it really is.
“Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and turn away from evil” (Proverbs 3:7).
Before I begin to explain, here are some helpful pointers that will allow us to more correctly discern what the saints and the Word are saying, so we don’t think they are contradicting each other or misinterpret anything.
First, we need to understand there is only one Spirit so, for the most part, the saints, who possess much wisdom from God, will all have the same message just said in different ways.
This is because there is only one way to Eternal Life. Sure none of the saints obtained perfect knowledge or wisdom and some saints will have a greater understanding of The Way or vaster knowledge of the mysteries than others, which God is constantly expanding, and there are many ways to get to the one path, but there is still only one Way, and we know the saints found it.
Therefore, our goal is to figure out what the saints, the Catechism (authored by a saint) and the Word are saying so to find the correct Way.
Second, to do this well, we need both knowledge and wisdom. With reading this article, we can gain knowledge of what the different kinds of fear are, but without obtaining wisdom, we simply won’t really understand fear of the Lord, nor fully know of its vital importance in our lives or how to obtain it.
Therefore, after we learn more about Fear of the Lord, it is imperative we seek to gain wisdom. And that is obtained from God when we grow in HUMILITY (gain knowledge of our great sinfulness).
Yes, Fear of the Lord, which is needed to obtain Eternal Life, is gained from growing in great humility. The rest of this website can help us to obtain that.
Truly, all of our blindness and confusion comes from our pride…lack of humility. We want to gain greater and greater humility. That is key.
“This [true] knowledge that we owe to the virtue of humility— [is] the mother of salvation.”
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church
Who is the Audience?
To come to understand which fear is being spoken about when reading the saints work or The Word, we need to see who the audience is that they are addressing.
For instance, when Pope St. John Paul II wrote his guidance to always “live in fear of God…to keep God’s law and commandments always before one’s eyes” that was written in his daily journal, which was obviously meant to be published for others to read.
However, when St. Padre Pio wrote, “there is no more room for fear and worry,” he was advising a particular man, who was striving to serve God perfectly (working to become a saint), who was suffering from scrupulous thinking and had anxiety over his sins.
As you can see, each saint wrote to two greatly different audiences, and they used two greatly different kinds of “fear” to lead souls onto the path of Life.
“Maintain your fear of God in order not to fall through pride…Thus fear of God is like the gateway into heaven.”
–Jesus to St. Bridget of Sweden
As I said, there are many different types of “fear.”
- Frightened: The Word speaks about an angel telling the Blessed Mother to not fear. That is the, don’t be scared of the gigantic angel that is next to you but rejoice that God has found favor with you, kind of fear. That is the kind of everyday fear we fall into when we are frightened.
- Scared of Perfect Goodness: Now The Word also speaks about not fearing God because God is Perfect Goodness; how can we fear what is perfectly good. God is delightful; we are to run to Him for help. He loves us.
- Lack of Trust – Worry: However, there is also another fear, which is to be avoided and that is the fear that comes from a lack of trust in God–when we fear (worry) about what God might or does allow (even if it is bad as we should understand God intends to use all He allows as good–to grow in holiness–if we allow Him).
- Fear of God’s Punishments: Then there is another fear, that of fearing God’s punishments. As with any good parent, God sometimes punishes us for our wrong choices to motivate and teach us how to make right ones so we can avoid an even greater eternal consequence.
- Fear of the Lord: Then the word speaks about another fear, which can also include the aforementioned fear (#4), which is also known as the “beginning of wisdom,” (Proverbs 9:10) and that is “fear of the Lord,” which is the fear of sin and its consequences. This fear has two components: servile and filial fear (as I speak about below).
God is a god of love and desires to use fear–any one of these fears–to help us grow in faith by helping us to develop a greater hatred of sin and a firmer trust in Him…so to gain a true saving belief in Our Savior that truly loves Him and accepts His forgiveness of our sins.
If we are interpreting any of these fears correctly it will help us to grow in holiness not cause us to shrink from God, but to more fervently run to Him.
The goal for us is to understand which fear God is speaking about so we can properly follow and love Him so to grow into a saving faith/true love of God.
Servile and Filial Fear
There are other fears than the ones I described above, but for understanding the basic requirements of salvation, it is only important we understand those.
But the most imperative fear to gain knowledge of is most certainly Fear of the Lord.
Fear of the Lord includes both:
- servile fear–fear of sin, to want to stop sinning out of fear of God’s punishments;
- filial fear–fear of sin, to want to stop sinning out of fear of offending God and harming our relationship with Him.
These–servile and filial fears–are both know as “fear of the Lord.” They are the “beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10).
As you can see the dichotomy is clear with all of the above fears. But if we discern what kind of fear is being spoken about when reading, with the Holy Spirit guiding us, we will more easily understand which fear is being meant so to not be deceived.
“The beginning of wisdom is the point where wisdom [knowledge of how to obtain a saving faith–how to love God] begins to work, and in this way fear is the beginning of wisdom, yet servile fear [works] in one way, and filial fear, [works] in another [but both work towards the same goal–salvation].”
–St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church
Fear of Sin
Unlike popular thinking/teaching, like I said, Fear of the Lord isn’t “awe” of God.
None of the saints, nor the Catechism, nor The Word teaches that. Yes, many other non-sanctified souls have made that claim, but that isn’t the correct instruction in which the saints, who have much greater wisdom, teach.
Of course we should have an awe of our Almighty Creator, but like I said that isn’t what true “Fear of the Lord” means.
That is the deception of the evil one to keep us in our sinful ways so we don’t develop a true fear of sin and continue without restraint offending God.
True Fear of the Lord is a fear of sin and its horrific consequences.
“The gift of fear of the Lord is definitely the basis [from the Holy Spirit]. It is fear of sin.”
–Pope St. John Paul II
We must fear sin, as sin causes incredible pain and blindness in our lives and when we lack a correct amount of this fear, we lack of true sorrow for our sins and forfeit salvation.
The lack of TRUE sorrow for just one sin rejects God’s perfect forgiveness for our sins, rejecting eternal life, resulting in horrific suffering forever. To learn more please read the article, “What is True Sorrow.”
Therefore, true fear of the Lord must be obtained, not just for one sin but for all of them. And that takes much grace. That is why the evil one has worked so hard to distort its meaning. We need it to be saved!
However, not only does the lack of contrition (lack of fear) for our sins hurt us in our lives on earth and cause us to suffer for all eternity from our sins, more importantly it harms our relationship with God (it separates us from God whom we should be united with and loving), caused His crucifixion and causes untold suffering to God’s Sacred Heart of Love in Heaven.
Wow! Sin should be greatly feared!
Fear of the Lord is truly the “fear of sin;” it is the hatred of evil and the dreaded consequences it causes to ourselves, others and God.
“The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil [sin]” (Proverbs 8:13).
Obtaining even some of this fear is quite the gift from God. As for many, it causes us to sincerely seek God’s mercy (help) so we can have the strength to change from our sinful ways, causing us to stop offending God, grow in contrition and move towards obtaining a saving faith and gain Eternal Life. To learn more please read the article on the Home Page of this site.
Fear Drives Us Away from Sin
We are all, even non-religious, driven away from our sinful way of life by fear and fear alone.
The fear we experience that moves us to change can be very little or very great. Nonetheless, fear is what causes all people to want to change from what is wrong to what is right.
For example: If our neighbors are upset with us for leaving our garbage can on the curb past the trash pick up date, we can choose to stay in our sin of laziness, not take care of our responsibility and not care about what our neighbor thinks of us or how he feels. Or we can do what is right and bring in our garbage can.
If we did do what was right, we can look introspectively, to see what the motivating factor was that caused us to move into action and cease being lazy. Did we fear that our neighbor wouldn’t like us or see us as bad or perhaps we though he or our city might cause us problems, or maybe since we cared about his feelings, we feared that we would upset him or or we felt guilt and feared we weren’t being the person we wanted to be…perhaps our reason to move was a little of each reason.
Nonetheless, we can see those simple fears are what caused us to stop sinning and change. However, if none of those reasons were enough to move us out of our selfishness, then we simply ignored our conscience and stayed in our laziness.
But changing for any of those reasons isn’t what moves us from darkness into Light. Atheists change for those reasons too. That won’t lead us to the Kingdom of God. The main reason we seek to change MUST be out a hatred for sin, out of “Fear of the Lord,” or we simply aren’t move by faith, but other reasons.
“He who dreads sin avoids dangerous occasions [avoids what tempts us to sin], frequently recommends himself to God [prays for help to stop sinning], and has recourse to the means of keeping himself in the state of grace [frequents the sacraments].”
–St. Alphonosus, Doctor of the Church
First Step Towards a Saving Faith
Like I said, fear gives us the desire to change. And if that fear is Fear of the Lord–servile or filial fear–this fear can be the FIRST STEP towards real change for the right reason so to grow in faith towards obtaining a saving faith.
However, since the devil works so hard to deceive us, we can be easily deceived and think we are changing for the right reason, but God knows we aren’t.
Fear can be from God or purely from self-love. But fear, whether it be great or small, provides us with the motivation to move away from bad. So fear is good.
Some of us will have much greater fears than others. Some will clearly see how our wrongful actions are greatly hurting our lives and/or the lives of others. And from not wanting to suffer or have others suffer from our faults (fearing our errors are hurting ourselves or others), we will seek self improvement and work hard to change. And if we do change, we will reap the benefits of our good actions…just like all people of faith or no faith experience.
Anyone, religious or not, can turn from evil and do good…and then our lives will benefit. But turning from our wrong ways to have a better life (even if we seek God’s help), isn’t going to lead us to the Kingdom of God, unless we do it out of Fear of the Lord.
Only, change driven by servile or filial fear is the fist step toward a saving faith.
“Now when these sentiments of fear [servile fear] take such root in our souls that they drive and banish thence the affection and will to sin [leading to true contrition], as the sacred Council of Trent speaks, they are certainly very wholesome.”
–St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church
But sadly, since we have been tricked into think mercy will forgive, even if we aren’t truly sorry (lack fear) for our sins, most never even think about God’s punishments due to us from our sins as a reason to stop sinning nor even contemplate a thought that we are actually offending God Almighty with our wrong choices, Whom we should be loving…even in confession, even if we “say” to God we are sorry for offending Him like in the act of contrition. Mostly, our words are just that…only words.
The words we say never really register in our minds or hearts…not enough to cause us to sincerely with all of our effort seek God’s mercy (help) to change because we would rather suffer anything rather than offend Our Lord again. Sadly, we put forth little if any effort to see that we won’t re-commit our sins. This is because our sorrow and fear simply isn’t true. To learn more please read, “What is True Sorrow.”
“His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him” (Luke 1:50).
For example: Lets say, a married couple is having problems with their marriage. They want a better marriage, and since they are Christian and believe God’s guidance can help so they seek Christian counseling. Each person looks into how they can change to improve the relationship and then they work hard to modify their behavior.
Now, this is good, but if the main reason they want to change is to have a better marriage…not from fear of God’s punishments/consequences for their sins or fear that their wrongful behavior is offending God Whom they don’t want to offend, then none of their efforts to improve will help them towards gaining a saving faith….since they aren’t driven by wisdom (fear of the Lord), but self-love (wanting a happy/better life).
Sure, changing from bad to good will help us in this life, and that can even help us to one day be able change out of fear of the Lord, but if our intentions for changing isn’t greater than an atheist, who seeks self-improvement too, it will not move us towards a saving faith, into “maturity” in the faith. Growth in our faith and love for one another can occur but since the change wasn’t driven from wisdom–servile or filial fear–we simply aren’t walking towards the path of Life.
“Beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10).
This is why the saints say, “Very few Christians are Saved.” We aren’t living our life to stop offending God; we are living our lives to benefit ourselves. We seek God’s help to make a better life for ourselves, not to help us stop offending Him.
Even though we may seem very faithful, we have been greatly deceived. We greatly lack Fear of the Lord. We greatly lack True faith. To learn more about what the saint say, please read the article on the Home Page of this site.
If we wish to grow in our faith and begin to walk towards the path of Life, truly seeking to love God, we must seek to improve and stop our wrongs, not just because it is good to do or improves our way of life, but out of fear of the Lord: servile fear (stopping sin out of fear of God’s punishments) and/or filial fear (stopping sin out of fear of hurting God and our relationship with Him-done from love). Our desire to change must be above an atheist, who seeks to improve his life and not hurt others too.
First Stage of Wisdom
Like St. Thomas Aquinas said above, “The beginning of wisdom is the point where wisdom [gaining knowledge of how to obtain a saving faith (the Truth)–how to really love God] begins to work”“ and if we don’t have the “beginning of wisdom,” fear of the Lord, we are still only an infant in our faith (even if we have been in the faith our entire life with many works, prayers and blessings).
We can have degrees in theology, and have been seemingly “faithful” for our entire life, but if we have yet to open up our souls to receive wisdom–the “beginning of wisdom”–we still don’t have the very first step towards a saving faith nor any real contrition for our sins.
I know this can be shocking, but this is the truth.
“Fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of [how to obtain] salvation quite as much as it is the beginning of wisdom [beginning of how to truly live the faith] .”
–St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Doctor of the Church
We must have fear of the Lord to grow from some faith in Christ to advance all the way into a true saving faith that has true contrition for every one of our sin if we want Eternal Life.
It all begins with “fear of the Lord”…fear of sin and its consequences. Without it we are dead.
What a humbling thought…especially for those who perceive themselves as greatly wise elders in the faith.
Yes, most still haven’t even begun to grow into a mature saving faith. Yet we must have “fear of the Lord” FIRST to even begin to take our very first baby step towards obtaining true belief in God that will embrace God’s saving mercy and not reject it for sin. To learn the rest of the steps towards a saving faith please read, “How to Become a Saint.”
“Fear of the Lord is the first stage of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).
Without “Fear of the Lord” We Have No Contrition
Without TRUE Fear of the Lord, we can’t be saved.
Fear of the Lord is so important, we can’t have true contrition for our sins–we can’t accept God’s forgiving mercy–without it.
Contrition that accepts God’s Forgiveness are:
- Imperfect contrition: servile fear–is sorrow derived from fear of God’s punishments (cf. CCC# 1453) and,
- Perfect contrition: filial fear–is sorrow from fear of harming our relationship with God and offending Him whom we should love with all of our hearts (CCC# 1452).
As I said, these are both derived from “fear of the Lord.”
Those are the only two sorrows that accept God’s forgiveness within our souls and imperfect contrition can only accept forgiveness during confession to a priest. Therefore, without having true sorrow (perfect contrition) for every sin, we reject God’s saving forgiveness and choose eternal suffering at our death…since we won’t be in confession the very moment we die. There will be no assistance from the priest.
Please don’t think the anointing of the sick will save us either if we lack perfect contrition. That too is just another deception from the devil to keep us complacent with our sins. To learn more please read, “Will Anointing of the Sick Forgive Mortal Sin.”
“For those who desire Eternal Life, a pure love detached from themselves [no self-love] is necessary, for it is not enough for eternal life to fly [away from] sin from fear of punishment [imperfect contrition-servile fear]…Sin should be abandoned because it is displeasing to me [perfect contrition-filial fear].”
–God the Father to St. Catherine of Sienna
But please don’t be deceived. For most of us to even get to filial fear/perfect contrition–which is the fear/contrition we need to accept God’s saving grace when we die (since it is driven from true love–not self-love)–it takes most people years and years of painstakingly working to rid sin after sin so to grow into such faith.
Not because it takes most of the time to get to filial fear, but because it takes most of our time to get to true servile fear. Once true servile fear for all sin is obtained, filial fear follows pretty quickly, since bounds of grace is received and great change is made once a soul can finally be forgiven for their sins.
You see, sin rejects grace so the more sin we remove the more grace we can accept, and when we can receive the incredible grace that comes from being forgiven for at least one sin and then for all of our sins, we can now easily open up our souls to gain the grace needed for filial fear/perfect contrition for all of our sins. It is true some can obtain such unfathomable grace at the moment of our death, but those are the fewest of the few.
St. Catherine of Sienna tells us how, unless we have received a special grace from God, we must first remove our sin out of fear of punishment (servile fear), and then receive God’s grace from the removal of sin so we can grow to sincerely love Him with a pure filial love, since it was our sins in the first place that was keeping us from being able to truly love God.
She states, “from the fear of punishment [servile fear] he [the sinner] drives out his sin, and [then he] lovingly embraces virtue [qualities of goodness], serving his Lord, whom he has wronged [with filial fear].
“There is another fear, taking its origin from faith [servile fear], which teaches us that after this mortal life there are punishments fearfully eternal, or eternally to be feared, prepared for such as in this world have offended the Divine Majesty and die without being reconciled to him; that at the hour of death the soul shall be judged by a particular judgment; and that at the end of the world all shall rise and appear together to be judged again in the universal judgment.
For these Christian truths, Theotimus, strike with an extreme dread the heart that deeply ponders them. And indeed how could one represent unto himself those eternal horrors without shuddering and trembling with apprehension?…
We have conceived of thy fear, O Lord, and have brought forth the spirit of salvation, is said in Isaias. That is, thy wrathful face terrified us, and made us conceive and bring forth the spirit of penance, which is the spirit of salvation; so did the Psalmist say: There is no peace for my bones, because of my sins, yea, they tremble, because of thy wrath.”
–St. Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church
Great Mis-use of Fear
In today’s society the “do not fear” expression is used quite often, but it is misinterpreted and misused much of the time, which very tragically leads to a terrible loss of life.
“Do not fear” means don’t be frightened or don’t lack trust in God’s mercy (help & forgiveness–if we are truly seeking a saving faith and/or have true contrition for our sins). It also means not to loose our trust in His will…His plan for our lives to bring us to salvation for those who are truly striving to follow Him.
We can use the expression “don’t fear,” in some circumstances, to calm people who are in distress and help bring them peace, so they can know all is part of God’s plan and will be used for good, IF they choose to learn, change and trust in Him to do just that.
This use of “fear” can be helpful if used correctly, however, if it is mis-used, it doesn’t preach the truth but a lie and actually causes us to promote complacency in our sinfulness, which leads to death.
Oh, how many have been led onto the path of destruction by the misguided love of others using “do not fear?” It is tragic!
For example: (true events) A young church going woman went to a priest in confession and mournfully said, “I miscarried my baby” as tears fell down her face and declared, “I think God is punishing me for my sins.”
The loving, but misguided priest, said, “God is a loving God. He doesn’t punish. Don’t fear…trust in His mercy.”
Now, that sounds like loving comforting words to a woman seemingly looking for forgiveness. Well, this priest actually just took away this woman’s gift from God—“fear of the Lord.”
God gave this woman some actual grace and blessed her with having guilt that brought about “servile fear”–fear of punishment from our sins–as St. Thomas Aquinas says “servile fear is a gift of the Holy Ghost” (Summa Theologica II q.19, art.6) because it motivates many to amend our ways.
Wonderfully, this servile fear has prompted many to stop their transgressions against God that would have caused them to commit many additional grievous crimes and even sent them to eternal suffering.
Yet, this priest didn’t know what a blessing it was to have the fear of punishment for our sins, and was probably thinking he was showing this woman Jesus’ love, but in fact, tragically, he removed God’s love.
Nobody wants to think God would allow for someone to loose their own child because of their sins–that seems just so horrible and not what a loving God would do, so we quickly say, “God doesn’t punish” which couldn’t be further away from the truth.
Our same loving God, took away King David’s child (cf. 2 Samuel 12) as a consequence of His sins. God most certainly punishes, sometimes with horrible punishments, as is described over and over again in the Word.
Yet, when He does, for those who believe, it is for the good of our souls. We might ask, how can loosing one’s child possibly be good? Well, all God allows, God intends to use it for good, even if it is very painful and tragic, even if we don’t understand, if we allow Him.
God loves us all and is greatly patient with us as He tries to lead us to Life. Sometimes our sins, in God’s eyes, are so terrible, that God in His great wisdom knows we need huge consequences to be able to even see them and their seriousness so to repent and change.
This horrible atrocity–the death of ones child–that God allowed, was surely something that woman needed to be saved.
“You punish many’s sin and correct Him; like the moth you devour all he treasures [to teach him to treasure You].” (Psalm 39:11)
However, not all atrocities (suffering) are always consequences of our sinfulness. Sometimes God allows them to happen to prove our faith or to help us grow in greater trust in Him.
But they are never to lead those who love Him (even a little) to our eternal doom. All suffering God allows, is always to help atone for sins, grow to true/perfect love, and for us to offer up the pain for our sins and those of the world, so we can do what Jesus did and send grace for the salvation of souls.
Nonetheless, all that God allows is ultimately for the good of our souls. He wants us saved.
God Leaves Us
With that said, there are those however, who have spurned God so greatly. Even though God loves them, yet, in His anger, from God’s divine justice, for their outrages against Him, He leaves them. This is true.
“Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God [His law], God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done” (Romans 1:28).
God can become so offended by our rejection of Him and refusal to obey Him, that He abandons us to our own sinfulness with no help. He will no longer sends His help (mercy) to teach and guide us to how to obtain salvation.
People whom their hearts have become so hard (even if they “say” they believe and seemingly practice the faith), that are no longer capable of reconciling with God, God leaves them to suffer from their sinful choices without His help to escape.
They will suffer on earth gravely from their sinful choices (cf. Romans 18-32) and unless they somehow repent and change (like from the prayers of the righteous prayed for then) they will be sent to their eternal demise (cf. Jude 1:7) from their rejection of God’s mercy.
Only God’s truly faithful can help these poor souls, who God has left, by praying on their behalf, in order to spare God’s wrath upon them with the hopes to save them (Deuteronomy 9:12-19).
“Our Lady can no longer uphold the arm of Her Divine Son which will strike the world. If people amend their lives, Our Lord will even now save the world, but if they do not, punishment will come [to teach us right from wrong the hard way]”
–Lucia of Fatima
Yes, as written in the old and new testament and from the saints, God, even though He loves us, can be so inflicted from the sins of man, who have become so depraved (morally corrupt) from our blatant refusal to love/obey Him, these will no longer receive God’s actual grace to help us in our life so we can move towards the path of Life.
Truly, we shouldn’t consider our sins as nothing; we will most certainly reap what we sow and there will be “wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth and obey wickedness” (Romans 2:8). Mercy can’t be abused. God isn’t mocked. There is justice.
Perhaps even now, we have been left by God to suffer from our sinfulness without His love (help). Are we someone who prays to God, thinking we love Him, but from our pride, we are still receiving no help as we carry one cross after another…not learning nor changing from our sinful ways but just living confused and struggling.
If so, perhaps God has left us and now someone of faith has been praying on our behalf and God has heard their prayer and is now giving us an opportunity to hear the truth so we can run to God begging for mercy so we can repent and change before it is too late.
These punishments in the Word and what we witness others going though are meant to warn those who are still in God’s mercy (are still being sent grace to change), so that they will see their own sinfulness so to repent and change before God’s patience leaves us too, and we too end up like the disobedient have.
But for those who trust in Him and are true Christians…or even if we some day want to truly trust in Him and want to truly live the faith (striving to follow Christ), who haven’t hardened our hearts so greatly and completely rejecting Him, God can make all bad into good, if we learn how to let go of our will and surrender to His heavenly plan for our lives. That is faith.
Faith is trusting (never fearing) in Our Savior to guide us, during all circumstances, to Eternal Life, by teaching us how we need to change and what we need to do, so we can correctly follow Him (love Him) to Salvation (to give us a saving faith).
Therefore, since God most certainly punishes, as horrible as it may sound, we must understand this woman’s claim, that the loss of her child might be a consequence from her sins, very well might be true. On a positive note, this also proves God patience with her as she is one of the blessed whom God hasn’t left.
Accuse – not Excuse
To not have misguided this woman, it would have been best if this priest questioned her, to learn more, in order to not have gravely lead her onto the path of doom. It would have been wise for him to have found out what sins she was concerned about and if in fact she was TRULY sorry for them.
Many people will be blessed to feel some guilt over their sins and go to confession, but because they don’t have that much grace yet, they are not really looking to accuse themselves of their sins to obtain forgiveness, but sadly their main desire is to justify (excuse) themselves of their sins…hoping they get a priest to give them self-pity or sympathy so they can remove the guilt they feel even though they aren’t truly sorry.
Many don’t want the truth; they just want consolation and the removal of feeling guilty. And a lot of the time, we think if we show up to confession and “say” we are sorry, all is forgiven, so we can cover the guilt God gave us that was meant to motivate us to CHANGE.
Tragically, many have been deceived and are not actually seeking forgiveness from God because of a lack of true hatred for our sins. Sadly, we don’t have a burning desire to stop offending God either from fear of punishment (imperfect contrition) or from fear that our sins have offended God who they should be perfectly loving (perfect contrition)…we aren’t even seeking the least amount of fear mostly because we don’t know we need to.
Horribly, many go to confession and have no contrition at all, mostly because they don’t know what is required to be forgiven. They haven’t been taught the truth. To learn more please read the article, “How Bad Confession Damn Us.”
Don’t Assume Mercy Will Forgive
Therefore, telling someone “not to fear and trust in God’s mercy,” when they still don’t desire to stop sinning–when they don’t have true sorrow–only promotes complacency in their sins and leads them to death.
God only forgives us of the sins when we are truly sorry for them, not just because we “say” we are sorry but because we truly are sorry which is proven in our actions (efforts to sin no more): which comes from much grace and a true detestation for our sins that is proven by our wholehearted resolve (working effort) to never commit them again.
Nobody should be taught to assume God’s mercy is going to save them, when by our own choices, we are still rejecting His saving grace from a lack of true contrition for our sins.
That is a horrible mistake many many people make. We need to learn how to obtain true sorrow (perfect contrition), not blindly trust in what we are rejecting. Nothing is of greater importance!
Most still need to at least gain the desire to obtain a truly contrite heart. Truly, we need to change where we put our efforts in life so we make seeking to “sin no more”–gaining a truly contrite heart of love for God or at least a great fear of punishment our first priority. If not, we are still rejecting God’s sanctifying grace and any “trust” we claim to have is false trust (a lie) and in vain.
However, telling someone to trust in God’s mercy, who truly hates their sins, and is working wholeheartedly daily to stop each and every sin–who is sincerely striving to become a saint (someone who wants to truly love God perfectly by seeking to stop sinning)–or would rather suffer death than sin, is exactly what we should do.
But for everyone one else, which sadly is most of us, we need to fully understand the consequence of sins and what true sorrow is and seek to obtain it. Unless we are honestly resolved to sin no more, daily removing sin after sin, seeking to perfectly live for God’s will, we are still rejecting God’s saving mercy and choosing Hell. To learn more please read the article, “How to Become a Saint.”
Guide Away From Sin
However, for God to punish in such a great way, like with this woman’s loss of her child, He will have a great reason and this magnificent, yet, misguided priest like I said simply didn’t know enough about this woman’s sins or her contrition to guide her correctly.
The cunning devil confuses some priests and makes them feel their job is to make people feel happy and in peace after confession. Yet, the priests’ job is to guide God’s children away from their sins towards Life. When that is done correctly, it should bring about wonderful peace.
With this particular woman, she was sorta considering the need to stop sinning. She at least had some guilt, enough guilt to go to confession looking for guidance. And guilt is very good; it can be the start of contrition (sorrow).
However, she didn’t have real contrition since she didn’t really hate her sins nor was she truly resolved to stop sinning out of fear of punishment or love of God. She was more or less looking for the priest to “tell her” she needed to stop sinning because her sins were in fact great and very well could have caused the loss of her child. That was the motivation she needed. But she never got it.
It was good she went to confession and was contemplating if she needed to change. But after she left confession, because she wasn’t guided away from her sins, she felt no need to amend her ways, since she now believed God didn’t punish. She had no fear, and she felt she could live life how she wished with out worrying that her sins would cause more bad to happen in her life.
She didn’t even consider that her sins were causing affliction upon God. She just felt God would forgive her no matter how she chose to live and the loss of her child was just some random act of nature–contrition wasn’t even a thought on her mind.
Tragically, as a result, she continued in her sinful ways causing untold harm to God, her soul, her life and others. She fell further and further away from God’s grace committing many many additional great sins, even though she said the words of contrition (act of contrition) after her confession.
As we can see, her words of contrition weren’t meant from the heart…they we just words she uttered with her lips, but they had no meaning. Therefore, she received no forgiveness and continued denying God’s will, trying to find happiness in everything but by living to love and obey God.
Speak the Clear Truth
To truly love this woman, how Christ loves, the priest could have guided her soul to Life by saying words that would have led her to contemplation and understanding that there are consequences to sin on earth and for eternity such as, “God is a loving God, who allows all for the good of our souls. Sometimes we don’t know why He allows what He allows, but we know everything is ultimately for our good if we learn and change. If you feel God is punishing you, God is allowing you to feel this for a good reason, perhaps you have great sins you need to recognize, repent and stop. Have you been sinning and not living the life God has called you to live or have you not repented of past grievous sins?”
This kind of loving and honest approach to our sinfulness can open the door of the heart if someone wants to humbly admit their crimes (but some may still be too embarrassed). This allows the soul an opportunity to pour out their true transgressions, and it can spur us on to true repentance and the desire to change.
“Many there are who have fallen headlong to their deaths, because they cast off the fear of God and were then ashamed to make a confession before men, although they had not been ashamed to sin before God.”
–St. Bridget of Sweden
Most can recognize our sinfulness, if we think God is punishing us…since most know exactly what sins God is punishing us for or we wouldn’t fear punishment from them in the first place. That is why for those who “fear God is punishing them” it is most likely true and not exaggerated.
Yet, tragically for some, God sends punishments to awaken our minds to our sinfulness and the great need to repent and change, and we are so darkened, we can’t see or feel anything…no guilt at all. We just justify our crimes away. Horribly, we have become very good at covering our crimes against God and now our senses are dead.
Real Fruitful Penance
After the priest helps a soul gain some sorrow for her sins–gives her the correct understanding of her need to hate the sin and stop committing it–he can give her a penance that can truly help make right her wrong, and help suggest good resolutions that will make any attempt to change fruitful.
Then the priest can teach her how to forgive herself, since–if she is truly sorry (a point that should never be omitted)–no matter how horrible the sin or terrible its consequence was, God wants to forgive her, loves her, and desires for her to change so to use her to do wonderful works for the love of His children. And even if she is without true sorrow today, if she seeks God, God wants to bring her to a truly humble contrite heart for each and every sin.
Yes, God burns to forgive us and then transform us into His wonderful servants for the salvation of souls. He calls us to repent and change every moment of our lives to live for His will alone.
If we lead souls onto the path God has designed for us, our life can be transformed into a life of change and true happiness–into truly living to love God by truly working to obey all of His commands.
I want to mention one more thing about penance which can be very beneficial if given properly. But today, unlike in the past, the penances given are mostly just praying a few prayers.
Prayers are great, but for the most part, they don’t make right the wrong or provide the help we need to stop sinning, especially since most just rattle through them not praying them with a heart of love that is needed.
Therefore, if we aren’t given a penance that will help us atone for our sins nor given resolutions to help us stop our sins in confession, we–the pennant (the person confessing their sins)–are obligated to do that for ourselves to grow in holiness. An adequate penance should never be omitted; the benefits are great and will lead us to Life! Give our selves a good penance. To learn more please read, “
I will provide you with one example of a penance that will help move our souls properly. Lets say, you suffer from being a sloth…you love to sleep in or perhaps lay around watching TV or the internet when you have spare time instead of spending it knowing, serving of loving God.
Since the lazy can’t make it to Eternal Life because we habitually reject God for self-love, a penance that will benefit you would be making yourself do something that is the opposite of laziness.
The key to a great penance is doing the “opposite” of the crime we committed against God. However, when penances are self-imposed and there is no person to be accountable to for its completion–if being accountable to God alone isn’t enough for us to complete the penance–one should tell another of the penance we want to fulfill so to feel the pressure to complete it properly if we wish to love God and receive the grace from God He wills to give.
God Doesn’t Want To Punish
This “fear of the Lord” (servile fear), as you can see, is just wonderful. But please understand, God doesn’t want to punish, just like with any good parent. He would much rather we learn without all of the pain.
But He will punish, if it is necessary, for us to learn and change so to save our souls. That is His goal for all He allows…our Salvation! But there does come a point when our hour comes, when it is time for judgement and justice and whenever that is, we need to be ready; eternity is forever!
When this priest told this woman “don’t fear” as we can see that was very poor guidance since she should be fearing hell, because she wasn’t living a life according to God’s Word, nor was she even trying. If she doesn’t amend her ways, she will choose eternal suffering.
That is definitely something to be greatly feared. If she gained and maintained fear, it should have moved her to change and thus moved her towards a wonderful happy life on earth and for eternity.
That is truly the priests and our goal that God has given us…to satisfy God’s thirst for souls. God wants us and His priests to guide souls to abandon our desire for sin so He can love us for all eternity in Heaven.
I Don’t Fear – I Trust
So if we have found ourselves saying, “I don’t fear; I trust in God,” that is the deceiver confusing us. Unless we have made grown so much in faith…all the way to perfection and can no longer sin, we have clearly been deceived.
Only those who have obtained enough of God’s grace and perfectly love God–those who can’t choose to sin anymore–loose fear, since “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).
However, the rest of us, must have fear…an eternity with God or without God is at stake. One unrepentant sin can lost it all. Oh, how many sins are we not even contemplating to amend, never mind working diligently/daily with all of our heart, with God’s grace, to remove? We must change. Hell awaits us.
“But can anyone be free from fear if he can lose what he loves?”
–St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church
Sure, IF we are truly seeking God’s mercy to stop sinning so to obtain a saving faith working towards perfection (to never sin again), we shouldn’t fear death (Hell)…knowing God will lead us and guide us to Life–if we stay vigilant; He is Our Savior and wants us in Heaven. We must let go of fear of death or fear of anything God allows in life to happen…even sin (despair that our sins will lead us to our doom), and trust in Him, knowing all is allowed for the salvation of our souls.
Sure our sins will lead us to our doom, but that is only for those who cover them, and don’t repent, learn, change and grow in humility because of them. Yes, even our sins can lead us to Life, if we allow God to use them for good.
But that doesn’t mean we remove our fear of sin and its consequences; we just allow our trust in God to be our guide to Life, as long as we are truly learning from our wrongs, growing and changing, but yet knowing–being fearful–that if we fall lax, lukewarm, we will lose it all, no matter how faithful we have grown.
It is only if we are no longer able to sin at all that all fear will leave…since once we obtain perfection God won’t allow us to fall back into sin again…so truly “perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).
However, all of the saints who didn’t make it to perfection, feared sin; they knew there was due punishment for every sin they committed and a great offence committed against their Lord. They didn’t pretend they were so holy to not have consequences for their sinful actions and wanted to atone for all their sins committed after their baptism.
There is only one thing I fear and that is sin. –St. Padrie Pio
Oh, how many saints displayed much fear upon their death, knowing they would be going before the just judge, who knew the true intentions and contrition of the heart, to determine their eternity and their punishment in purgatory for all their sins they didn’t atone for? There is no need to wonder why they were in distress any more; They weren’t blind…they knew what was to come. That was a great sign and assurance they would have true sorrow for their sinfulness.
Great fear brings great contrition and is a wonderful blessing from God.
Dying in peaceful trust can be a wonderful sign of God’s grace too, but it can also be a great sign of fantastic blindness as well.
“To obtain salvation we must tremble at the thought of being lost, and tremble not so much at the thought of hell, as of sin, which alone can send us thither [there].”
–St. Alphonsus, Doctor of the Church
Give the Dying Fear of the Lord
We can’t leave the dying blind.
Trying to move the souls of those who are dying into understand their great sinfulness which needs to be repented of is what we are called to do. They simply must know that God called them to live for Him alone and to stop sinning so to become a perfect saint. But we failed and must beg God for mercy so we can gain a true harted for our lack of love for God and great love for ourselves.
Now this is very hard to do and takes much grace for the courage to love like Christ has loved and speak with words of love that move souls into true contrition. Our natural reaction to someone dying is to want to remove their fear and give them false peace. But that kills.
We mostly comfort them with words that actually lead them to death, and away from true contrition. We want to see them happy, thinking dying in peace is good…as we say, “Everything will be ok trust in God’s mercy,” when their heart is still rejecting His saving grace from a lack of contrition for their sins.
Are we truly loving them? We must care about someone’s Eternal Life above this very passing moment of false happiness we can give. Caring about someone’s eternity is the greatest of all loves.
God died to give us the gift of Eternal Life; that was His greatest concern. That must be ours. We need to love like Christ loved and teach others how to accept God’s most merciful gift and even be willing to have someone you love possibly hate you, during their death, in an effort to save their soul.
Because without a saving faith, whether they hate you or love you they are lost forever. That is great love.
We all like to be loved and don’t want others to become angry with us, so much of the time, we avoid the truth that saves, and only seek to bring others smiles. But I’m not saying we intentional try to make others angry with us, as much of the time when people’s pride explode in anger, the plug their ears even greater and hear even less. So we must speak as gently as possible but without forgoing any of the truth.
To love we must be willing to carry the agonizing cross with Christ, if even our honest but gentle (but not too gentle that people can’t hear) words cause devision…like it did for Christ. We must be honest with ourselves as the devil has many of our intentions for what we do shadowed in self-love..running from any possible cross. To learn more please read, “How to Save the Soul of Someone Dying.”
How Can I Have Fear of the Lord
Well, after reading all of this, you probably now have some Fear of the Lord. That is great! Now you can begin to take your very first steps towards a saving faith. But the thing is, to obtain a saving faith/true contrition for our sin, we need great Fear of the Lord. A fear so great that we would rather suffer even death than to sin against Our Beloved Lord.
So, we must always seek to increase our fear. Some saints have acquired such a fear from simply contemplating eternity or their sinfulness and their punishment that was due and others gained great contrition (fear) from various prayers and meditations on Christ’s suffering or from suffering a cross God has allowed them to bear.
St. Peter of Alcantara, who was the spiritual director of St. Teresa of Avila, and gave out fantastic penances to led souls to Heaven. He wrote only one book and that is a treatise on prayer and meditation which is packed full of contemplations of our misery to bring about great humility and fear of God from contemplating our great punishment in Hell that we deserve if we don’t change from our sinful ways.
Lifting Our Values has two books, “A Guide to Perfect Contrition” (filial fear)–which gives the facts of how to obtain salvation and its partner book “Meditations on the Passion of Christ” (consequence of sin)–that was designed to move souls, step by step, into obtaining the understanding of their misery, knowledge of God’s great love, and how to accept God’s grace to obtain Perfect Contrition for our sins.
Plus, St. Alphonosus has daily meditations, “The Ways of Salvation and of Perfection” to help us grow in contrition to move us to obtain servile fear and then filial fear.
Regardless of what we do, we must seek to grow in fear until we can perfectly love God–and sin no more.
“Oh God, Perfect Goodness, I fear the wrath I have caused You and the eternal punishment I deserve from my horrid abuse of Your love. Please have mercy on me, Your most wretched sinner, and send me Your loving grace to cause me to loose my self-love and laziness and desire to serve and suffer out of love for You in atonement for my sins and to bring others to salvation.”