Fear of the Lord

What is it that attracts so many to horror films? Is it the adrenalin rush from being frightened? Whatever it is that compels us to actively and purposely place ourselves in such circumstances is beyond easy or ready comprehension. Yet we do it over and over again.

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Yet not all fear is the same. Some fear is inspired by love, based upon feelings of reverence and respect for another. Whenever I am called upon to prepare a couple for the sacrament of matrimony, I always speak of this kind of fear.

When someone truly loves another there is a sincere level of anxiety, call it fear or worry, which is present in one person for the welfare of the other. This type of fear comes in two forms: one is that nothing we say or do will ever disappoint, disrespect, or violate the other; the second is concern for the other’s welfare, a fear of somehow being a hindrance or roadblock to the other’s hopes and aspirations.

This is Holy Fear, fear that we will never betray a trust or cause another pain or disappointment. Holy Fear is the fear we should have for God, the Fear of the Lord. We should never be afraid of God for he is not a fearsome presence but a loving one.

God does not punish us for our transgressions but loves us with his grace. It is we who punish ourselves for sins he has forgiven and forgotten. Thus we have no reason to fear God in such a way. Yet, for that we must fear him by giving ourselves to him, to respect and reverence him, to bend a knee in gratitude for our brokenness.

A brief story illustrates this very well:

One evening, a six year-old boy, who had just started school, hopped into bed without first kneeling in prayer. His mother, who had taught him to kneel by his bed each night before going to sleep and to recite a number of prayers, was astonished at this sudden change in behavior. She challenged him with these words, “Don’t you pray anymore?” He replied, “No, I don’t. My teacher at school told us that we are not supposed to pray. She said that we’re supposed to talk to God … and tonight I’m tired and have nothing to say.”

This little boy had discerned what it really means to be God’s child and how God is not so much a love to be obeyed as one who desires to have a loving relationship with us, one of holy fear.1

And then there is fear of authority, fear of those who hold power over others, such as kings and emperors. Most would agree that with few exceptions, royalty and those who wield power over others are seldom viewed with a friendly eye. For those who resided in first-century Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean region, royalty were seldom very popular, more often than not they were despised and hated. Certainly Herod and Caesar were not held in high esteem by those over whom they ruled. The common sentiment would have been of unholy fear.

Yet, the kingdom of God and the coming reign of the Son of God were of great importance in the mind of Jesus and his followers. What is important for us to understand is the significant difference between earthly kingships and the heavenly one. The Jews were expecting a Messiah, an anointed one, a king who would vanquish the foes of the house of Israel, a great military leader, an earthly ruler. They had no concept or thought of a heavenly kingdom or a spiritual realm. To this they were blind and thus saw Jesus, not as a king but as a teacher, a rabbi, and a counter-cultural revolutionary.

The kingship of Jesus represents a complete reversal of the usual roles for  royalty and servitude. When asked if he was a king, he responded, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice.”2

Jesus was a decidedly different sort of king for he came not to be served but to serve. He is the king who serves others. He is the king who dies for those he rules. He refuses to be the master, but washes the feet of those who follow him. He is the king who accepts without complaint the scorn, mockery, and ridicule of others. He was a powerless sovereign who refused all power and dominion over others.

Jesus refused bodyguards or protection of any kind for he abjured all manner of force and violence.

In Jesus we can find no envy, no greed, no lust for power. The king who executes none is cruelly executed for his innocence. He seeks no vengeance, he demands no reparation.

It can be shown … that there is not a single action or word attributed to Jesus—including those that seem harshest at first sight—that is not consistent with the rule of the Kingdom.

It is absolute fidelity to the principle defined in his own preaching that condemns Jesus. There is no other cause for his death than the love of one’s neighbor lived to the very end.

A non-violent deity can only signal his existence to mankind by having himself driven out by violence in the Kingdom of Violence.3

It is through the violent cruelty of his death on the cross that we find the triumph of the king.

As we hear from Paul in his letter to the Colossians, God “delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” In Jesus we have a king who by his death and resurrection redeemed the lowly and obtained the forgiveness of his almighty Father.

Jesus is the king:

the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.4

Pilate asked Jesus if he were a king. He was a king, just not the kind of king Pilate could comprehend for he only understood the tremendous power that came with empire backed by great military size and strength.

But Jesus was neither a king bent on the acquisition of power nor of empire; Jesus was the king of the small and the weak. He came not to conquer the world but to change the world, to open the gates to the kingdom of God to those who would follow him, to those who would observe all that he had taught.

Jesus is the king of the outcast, the poor, the rejected; not the powerful but the powerless.

What Jesus proclaims by word, he enacts in his ministry. … His mighty works symbolize that the reign of God is more powerful than evil, sickness, and the hardness of the human heart.

He offers God’s loving mercy to sinners, takes up the cause of those who suffered religious and social discrimination, and attacks the use of religion to avoid the demands of charity and justice.5

As Christians we pledge allegiance to the reign of God in our lives; that requires us to profess our faith in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When we gather in communion as the body of Christ at Eucharist, we experience the kingship which is Christ the King. We submit to his rule and accept him as our Lord and king of heaven and of earth.

Amen.

Homily #096
The Solemnity of Christ the King
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Colossians 1:12-20
Luke 23:35-43


1 Ron Rolheiser, In Exile: Holy and Unholy Fear, The Sunday Website of St. Luis University.
2 Jn 18:37.
3 Rene Girard, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.
4 Col 1:15-20.
5 U.S. Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 1987, §24.

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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