In the first reading today from Deuteronomy, Moses tells the people to fear the Lord, keep the commandments and in doing so, we will have a long life. The word fear in the biblical sense means to have a healthy respect for the Almighty. We are not God. God is God. Period.
In his book The Theology of Fear, Fr. Emmett Coyne writes about how some Christians have translated the word “fear” from a healthy respect of God and spirituality to a literal mis-understanding that can permeate theology and religious practice: a fear that God is ready to get us any time we do something wrong. Fr. Coyne says with fear ruling rampant, the picture of God as portrayed by the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son is wrong. Rather, God is like the famous The Far Side cartoon with his finger on the smite button ready to do us in at any time. Fr. Coyne proposes that over-emphasis on fear as the motivating factor for conversion can lead to possible burnout, neurosis and religion drop-outs.
So what is a Christian to do when fear paralyzes an active faith? Moses speaks that we are to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). Who gives us perfect love as a free gift? Jesus Christ. Christ’s Precious Blood washes over and makes us a new creation.
Precious Blood spirituality helps us to view the world in love, not fear. When love transforms our fears, we become a free people. We treat others with respect, not as a means to an end. We start living Kingdom faith here on earth now.
Fr. Tim Knepper, C.PP.S., is the parochial vicar of the Catholic Community of Northwest Dayton, which includes Precious Blood, St. Rita and St. Paul Parishes.