Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
July 26th, 2011
Daniel Patrick O'Reilly
Registrar's Office
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Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Ann, parents of Blessed Virgin Mary
[402] Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5b-9, 28
Psalm 103:6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13
Matthew 13:36-43

Today’s scripture readings speak to me of the fear of God and personal accountability.  In Exodus, Moses speaks to God face to face.  We hear of God’s loving kindness and forgiveness, but (there’s always that but) we also hear “yet not declaring the guilty guiltless, but punishing children and grandchildren”.  The psalmist proclaims, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.”  And in Matthew, Jesus explains the parable of the weeds to his disciples.  At the end of the age, it will not be a happy time for evildoers.  “They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  Whoever has ears ought to hear. ”

“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”  Amen to that.  I’ll be honest.  Fear is a word I don’t much care for.  And I have trouble with this fear of the Lord notion.  I want to love God.  I don’t want to be afraid of God.  I want to do God’s will because I love Him, not because I’m afraid of what He will do to me or my children or my grandchildren.  Fear of the Lord.  It just doesn’t sound like a healthy thing.

The image of a wrathful, vengeful God with his children trembling in fear is a big stumbling block for many.  I’ve had people say to me, I cannot worship a God who threatens to harm my children.  And I have to sympathize with that thought.  Here’s how I view this.  If I go out and rob a bank, I’ve broken God’s law, but I don’t expect God to drop a lightning bolt on one of my sons.  That said, there is a personal accountability and my actions will have consequences.  Jesus makes it as simple as He possibly can.  Love God and love your neighbor.  If I can do this and this is the life my children see, I have blessed them.  If I am disrespectful to God, if I hate my neighbor, if I lie, cheat, steal or cause others to sin and this is the life my children see, I have cursed them.  When I’m driving down the road of life and the light turns red, I have choices to make.  And each choice has consequences.  Personal accountability.  I’ve concluded that one of the best things I can do for my sons is to love my wife.  Another one of God’s commands.  So simple, it almost sounds silly.  But of course it’s not.  Today’s statistics on divorce and family issues make that painfully clear. So, fear of the Lord is actually a healthy thing?

I learned yesterday that my Uncle Judd died.  He was 97 years old.  After my grandfather died, Uncle Judd became the patriarch of the O’Reilly clan.  He had a hard handshake, a soft heart and a great laugh.  What a wonderful, full life.  And what a model he was.  For my dad, for me, for my brother and for many others.  While I know there will be grief, my hope is that his funeral will be a time of redemption, joy, prayer and stories.  And that all of us there can renew our faith, hope and love.  Death is sort of like childbirth.  It’s never convenient, it comes when you aren’t ready and it’s always painful.  But I believe it can result in something beautiful.  I’m confident my Uncle Judd is in a wonderful place.

I guess I like to think of the fear of God as a respect, reverence and awe that produces a desire to serve and please God.  My prayer today is for those of us who struggle with the notion of fear of the Lord.

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