The spiritual gift of fear of the Lord, the Holy Father declared to the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square at Wednesday's General Audience, does not mean being afraid of God, a common misconception, but rather refers to “abandonment into the goodness of our Father who loves us so.”
There is no reason to be afraid of God, for He is our Father, who loves and forgives us, Francis said.
“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.”
During the audience he underscored this aspect, but also how the gift does instill fear in those who sin, who are corrupt, such as human traffickers and arms manufacturers, who one day will find it difficult to answer to the Lord.
The Pontiff stressed three aspects of this gift: the first relates to our littleness, the second to our source of strength, and the third to our witness.
The first aspect is tied to our “littleness.” When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our heart, the Pope said, he infuses in us consolation and peace, and "leads us to see ourselves as we are, namely, little."
Recognizing our littleness allows us to entrust all our preoccupations and expectations to God, so we -- just “as a child with His Daddy" -- can feel “enveloped and sustained by His warmth and His protection.”
“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,” he said.
Turning to the second aspect, the Pope said this spiritual gift 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.”
The gift of the fear of God, the Pope stressed, opens hearts, allowing “the Father’s forgiveness, mercy, goodness, and caresses to come to us, because we are infinitely loved children.”
Noting the third aspect, Francis said that "when we are permeated by the fear of God, then we are led to follow the Lord with humility, docility and obedience." He added that this, however, does not cause one to have a “resigned, passive even mournful attitude,” but rather one of “the wonder and joy of a child who sees himself served and loved by his Father.”
The fear of God does not make us “timid, compliant Christians," but it generates “courage and strength,” which “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!”
However, Pope Francis warned, 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 we sin, the holy fear of God puts us on alert, he said, stressing, “With all this power, with all this money, with all your pride, with all your vanity, you will not be happy.”
The Pontiff explained, “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," as well as what we have done for others, the Pope said.
He warned that those who live corrupt lives will not be satisfied in this life or the next, noting traffickers of persons and manufacturers of arms, as those who will have difficulty going to the Lord since “all the fruit of his corruption has corrupted his heart.”
The Pontiff said manufacturers of arms "manufacture death."
"They are merchants of death and make death merchandise," the Pope said, praying that "the fear of God may make them understand that one day everything will end and they will have to render an account to God."
Reminding the faithful of Psalm 34, in which a poor man cried, the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles, he recalled, "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them."
Just like the fearful man was delivered, he stressed we too must cry to the Lord, and ask Him 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.”