As I was praying for the gift of Fear during the Pentecost novena, I was struck that few people have fear or guilt any longer. Our society teaches young people to not fear anyone or anything and that guilt is a wasted feeling. There is no longer the sense that God is God and I am not. People have no fear of holding or expressing any and all views on God, sex, religion, or anyone different from themselves. This has led to a lack of respect of respect for authority. A middle school boy told me a story about an eighth grade boy beating up the assistant principal in the school cafeteria. It happened in our neighborhood school. How have we reached a point that a 13 year old boy has such little fear or respect for authority that he does this?
Fear and guilt were at one time considered useful and necessary. They taught us boundaries, what was acceptable and what was not, and when punishment really was deserved. Even in Church, we have changed Fear of the Lord to Awe, but it lacks the true weight that Fear does in this case. Fear of the Lord is not about quivering in our shoes, but about a true acknowledgement of One who is greater than I. Therefore, I am subject to his authority and do not want to cause division in our relationship. And when I do cause division, I should feel guilty until I make amends. Sadly, many people equate fear and guilt with a fierce and vengeful God instead of viewing them as tools to help us live the right way with God and each other.