Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fear of the Lord

The most puzzling of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit has got to be "fear of the Lord." Fear does not sound like a positive thing: how can it come from the Holy Spirit? But today's Responsorial Psalm gives a hint of what the "fear of the Lord" means.
The eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness.

The parallel structure of the Hebrew poetry equates "fear" with "hoping for his kindness." And if we wonder just what that means, the psalm continues by spelling out what is hoped for: deliverance from death, survival in times of famine. Concrete hopes! (Like the hopeful prayers of my family in New Orleans right now...)
The psalm also offers an interesting commentary of sorts on Mary's Magnificat. No one more than Mary was "chosen by the Lord as his own inheritance"; The Lord looked with favor" on her, and she knew that "his mercy is from age to age on those who fear him." To deliver his people from death, the Lord would "cast down the mighty from their thrones"; to "feed them in time of famine," he would "send the rich away empty."
"Our soul waits for the Lord, who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice."
"My soul glorifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior."

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