by Fr Richard Heilman | October 28, 2017 6:21 PM
I’ve always said that we do not have a crisis of poor catechesis … we have a crisis of “no hunger for catechesis.”
When I was growing up, the Church and her missions were our family’s “primary vocation.” As a result, what was instilled in us children was a desire to put God first in our lives. Literally, my parents opened our hearts to receive the “entryway” gift of the Holy Spirit … the gift that opens us to all of the other gifts. We received the Gift of Awe and Wonder or Fear of the Lord. Fear of ever wanting to disappoint the One we love the most: God.
I happen to agree with Pope St. Gregory the Great who, wanting to capture the spiritual dynamism of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, posited the following order:
“Through the fear of the Lord, we rise to piety, from piety then to knowledge, from knowledge we derive strength, from strength counsel, with counsel we move toward understanding, and with intelligence toward wisdom and thus, by the sevenfold grace of the Spirit, there opens to us at the end of the ascent the entrance to the life of Heaven” (“Homiliae in Hiezechihelem Prophetam,” II 7,7).
As you can see, the entry point to all of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit is “Fear of the Lord.”
What is Fear of the Lord? According to Fr. John Hardon, Fear of the Lord …
“… inspires a person with profound respect for the majesty of God. Its corresponding effects are protection from sin through dread of offending the Lord, and a strong confidence in the power of His help. The fear of the Lord is not servile but filial. It is based on the selfless love of God, whom it shrinks from offending. Whereas in servile fear the evil dreaded is punishment; in filial fear it is the fear of doing anything contrary to the will of God. The gift of fear comprises three principal elements: a vivid sense of God’s greatness, a lively sorrow for the least faults committed, and a vigilant care in avoiding occasions of sin. It is expressed in prayer of the Psalmist, ‘My whole being trembles before you, your ruling fills me with fear’” (Ps 119:120).
An “all in” love that fears ever disappointing God is what Jesus points to in this Sunday’s Gospel:
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22: 34-40)
Jesus would emphasize the need to put God first in radical sayings such as Luke 14:25-27 …
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
Hate, in this biblical context, actually translates to “love less.” Again, Jesus is teaching Who is our “primary vocation.” It is God.
When, as a family, we put “everything,” noble or not, ahead of God and His missions, we are saying that “we love God less” than all these people and things. And, this is what the children learn: Everyone and everything takes priority over God. It is an empty religiosity that does not impact the children.
My parents modeled the “proper order” of Who we should love more by their willingness to place everyone and everything “after” God and our service to God. If the church needed us, we would drop everything and “go” … no questions asked.
As a result, we had a “real” love for God instilled in us, and we wanted to “know Him” more … we had a hunger for catechesis. Now, instead of being “force fed” catechesis, we sought it out. We were in an awesome relationship with Abba, who we loved so much, and we wanted to know Him more.
I am humbled by so many of my parishioners who understand that God is our “primary vocation.” As a result, their children have a great love and zeal for God and a great desire to know God more. Praise God!
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