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THE ONLY PERSON WE NEED TO FEAR IS OUR FATHER

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-eighth Week in Ordinary Time

Eph. 1:11-14 & Lk. 12:1-7

The doctrine of predestination has troubled many ordinary believers. According to orthodox teaching, God both foreknows and predestines everything that happens in this world. How could God do otherwise if He is an all-powerful and all-knowing God? He must know everything that will ever happen in the world, or His knowledge would be less than perfect and complete! God must cause everything that will ever happen in the world, or His power would be imperfect and incomplete. Christian theologians who believe in the omniscience and omnipotence of God are driven by the logic of their position to believe in divine predestination. That certainly seems to be the point that Saint Paul is making in his Letter to the Ephesians when he reminds them that they were predestined to praise God’s glory.

But there is another way to interpret this passage of scripture that avoids pitting the freedom of the individual against the sovereignty of God. Listen carefully to Paul’s opening words, “It is in Christ that we were claimed as God’s own.” On this approach to predestination, the only person that God foreknows and predestines is Jesus Christ. He knew from the foundation of the world that Jesus Christ would live, die and rise again. He chose that one person to live and die without compromising faith, hope or love. But that also means that all those who live and die as did Christ are also chosen by God. The doctrine of predestination is finally not a theory about human freedom but a promise of divine faithfulness. God will never abandon those who give their complete trust and total loyalty to Him.

Fear compels us to escape from whatever it is that is making us afraid. However, the divine gift of fear of the Lord has the opposite effect of drawing us closer to God. For this Godly fear comes with an understanding that God is far greater than we are and yet loves us deeply. He is supremely powerful, filled with all wisdom and knowledge, yet He cares for us as a Father cares for His children. As a child looks to its father for guidance and protection, so we can look to our heavenly Father to act graciously and generously on our behalf, even as we hold Him in the deepest reverence and awe.

By cautioning His disciples about whom to fear, Jesus challenged them, and us, to an examination of conscience and motivation. Are we driven by what other people think about us? Are we afraid to face our sins and deficiencies? Do we fear other people? Do we fear ourselves? Or do we fear the possibility that we might lose sight of our Father and wander into sin and separation from Him?

Immediately after He told His disciples to fear the One who can throw them, body and soul, into Hell, Jesus assured them of the value the Father places on His people. Far from moving us away from God, our godly fear - born of reverence for Him and gratitude for our redemption - should compel us to run to Him every day and ask Him to purify us of all that is displeasing to Him. We have a Father in Heaven who loves us deeply. We should not be concerned with others' opinions of us. Our only concern should be whether we are growing closer to the One who is our life and our hope.

Today, let us rejoice with the psalmist that our sins have been forgiven (Ps 32:1-2). Let us ask God to open our eyes to His greatness and majesty so that we will obey Him out of godly fear. May we know what a privilege it is to be called sons and daughters of God!

Lord Jesus, we rejoice in You today! You are worthy of all our trust and adoration. Teach us to come before You with reverence and fear, humbly surrendering our hearts to Your love. We ask God to make our faith in Him firm and intrepid and our dedication complete.

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