Courage Under Persecution
According to Laurie B. Rosenblum MPH, more than 10% of Americans have a specific phobia or fear. These phobias usually start in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Although many childhood phobias disappear before adulthood, only a small percentage of phobias in adults go away without treatment.
Actually each one of us has at least some fears and situations we try to avoid. Like for example: accidents, sickness, death, theft, gossips, unemployment, marital breakups, old age, bankruptcy, failures, being late, wearing the wrong clothes, flunking an exams and so on and so forth. The list is endless. But what is that certain thing most of us are afraid of to happen to us? Most of us would say, ‘It is death.’ Rita Snowdon, in her book Christianity Close to Life (p. 133) and quoted by the 365 Days with the Lord 2007, said by quoting first Dr. Paul Tillich that our basic anxiety is the fear of death. She continued to say that it is true many do their best even to avoid the term. They speak instead of ‘losing somebody,’ of a loved one ‘passing away.
But Jesus in today’s gospel thinks the opposite on this matter. He says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body…..Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into the Gehenna,” (vv. 4-5).Gehenna is originally Ge bene Hinnom which means “the valley of the sons of Hinnom.” Here the dead bodies of animals, criminals and all kinds of filth were cast and consumed by the always burning fire. This is the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. It became the image of the place of everlasting destruction. In this gospel passage and also in James 3:6, the word is uniformly rendered as hell. In my own reflection, the Lord insists on the fear of God which consists in loyalty, bravery and He punishes those who reject Him and lead others to do the same. And fear of God is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. These Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit poured out on a believer at baptism according to Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (died 397), are the: 1. Spirit of Wisdom; 2. Spirit of Understanding; 3. Spirit of Counsel; 4. Spirit of Strength; 5. Spirit of Knowledge; 6. Spirit of Godliness; 7. Spirit of Holy Fear; (from De Sacramentis 3.8). Ambrose believed that all of these were poured out on the believer at baptism.
What does fear of God have to do with the kingdom of God? Somebody said that fear is a powerful force. It can lead us to flight or panic or it can spur us to faith and action. The fear of God is the antidote to the fear of losing one’s life. What is fear of God or godly fear? It is reverence for the One who made us in love and who sustains us in mercy and kindness. The greatest injury or loss which we can experience is not physical but spiritual, that is, the loss of one’s soul to the power of hell. A healthy fear of God leads to spiritual maturity, wisdom and right judgment and it frees us from the tyranny of sinful pride, cowardice especially in the face of evil and spiritual deception.
Do we trust in God’s grace and mercy and submit to His word?
OPTION 01, 02, 03,