Piety and Fear of the Lord, by John Murphy

These Gifts of the Spirit help us develop a right relationship to God. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; wisdom and instruction fools despise." Prov. 1:7. "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Prov. 9:10

"And to man he (God) said: Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom; and avoiding evil is understanding." Job 28:28 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are all who live by it" (Psalm 11: 10). Fear of the Lord is the reality check that we need. Fear can be a paralyzing panic and not healthy; but we also see that reasonable fear like the fear of fire or powerful storms or fear of falling over the edge of high wall or cliff are helpful and necessary for our personal safety. Fear of the Lord is the gift that puts our life and situation in perspective. We are gifted with awe at the majesty and power of the Lord. Much of the Old Testament reflects the power and majesty of the Lord. Yahweh is contrasting the pagan gods and their powerlessness to Yahweh’s majesty and power. Yahweh is convincing the Israelites that they can have no other God but the Lord. Fear of any other power is but a child’s fear of the dark compared to the Fear of the Lord who can actually carry out any action he desires.

If you see Fear of the Lord as cowering in a corner in trembling and anxiety, sit down and read the first two chapters of Sirach. For example Sirach 1: 9. "Fear of the Lord is glory and splendor, gladness and a festive crown." Or, my favorite, Verse 10 "Fear of the Lord warms the heart, giving gladness and joy and length of days." Wow! We are truly blest with the gift of Fear of the Lord. When Jesus came and revealed to us that we could call God, Father, and Jesus, brother, and gave us the Holy Spirit, we received the fullness of the Fear of the Lord. Because of the Holy Spirit, we know of God’s power and might; but we also know the love and the protection that we are under. We have nothing else to fear.

From Fear of the Lord grows the gift of Piety. Piety is faithfulness to one’s religious duties. Piety is our response to the Lord. Piety is giving the Lord what we should give the Lord. Piety and being pious has been belittled by the image of the little old lady or man who lights the candles in front of numerous statues and clicks their rosary beads and says a bunch of prayers and who seems to spend all day in church. Would that most of us be even a tenth that pious! That character that makes piety something funny is Satan’s way of pulling us away from the gift of Piety.

Piety is saying our prayers, participating in Mass, receiving the Sacraments, reading the Scriptures and doing the Will of God. It is not done to "merit eternal life" but out of a sense that the Lord deserves our piety because the Lord is the God who made us and who redeemed us. Piety is living the Life of the Trinity. Piety is a gift, and we are simply using that gift the way God has intended us to use it.

Sirach 2:15-17 shows us the link between Fear of the Lord and Piety: "Those who fear the Lord disobey not His words; those who love Him keep His ways. Those who fear the Lord work to please Him, those who love Him are filled with His law. Those who fear the Lord prepare their hearts and humble themselves before Him."

The Mission of the Charismatic Renewal is to help us develop a personal relationship with Jesus. It is about renewing in us and in the Church the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit are ancient within the Church and taken from our Jewish heritage. They are not old stuff but an eternal legacy from our God. We approach them not with rote learning and formulas of doctrine but with living faith and living tradition. Things of old made new today. We wear an eternal garment that never wears out and is as new as if it were just made and put on. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit are not renewed; they renew the Church and us. It is us that grow threadbare and worn, it is us that need the Living Water -- Jesus Christ -- the Power of the Holy Spirit.

We live in a body that is constantly growing older and wearing out. We live in a world that keeps passing away even when it looks as if things are improving. We live in a Universe that physicist and astronomers will tell you is dying of entropy. It is only in the Holy Spirit that we live the life of God that is eternal, that does not wear out and does not become old and boring and that is eternally alive. Renewal is for eternity.

John Murphy is a member of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Charismatic Renewal Board and is a member of St. Gregory’s Parish, San Mateo. He is an Electronics Instructor at OICW, Menlo Park.

Read other articles of spiritual enlightenment in the November 1998 edition of The San Francisco Charismatics or return to the Main Menu by clicking on the blue.