(33rd Ordinary Sunday: Malachi 3:19-20; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19)
The Prophet Malachi and Jesus both prophesy a time of trouble. In the first reading, “Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven.” In the gospel, “Days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone.” An ominous doomsday-like prospect!
Both also offer encouragement to the faithful. “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays” (Malachi). “You are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you wisdom in speaking” (Jesus).
Here we find two terms that are found together three times in the Old Testament, in the familiar text: “The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord.” Among the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom is listed first, and fear of the Lord, last.
It is well known that fear of the Lord does not mean being afraid of God, but rather respecting him so much that we would never wish to offend him. In this sense, the Beautiful Lady of La Salette says, “Don’t be afraid,” but then goes on to describe ways in which her people have no fear of the Lord.
Those who fear God in the proper sense, are ready to submit to his will, however it is manifested in their life. It may include persecution or a call to generous service, but at the very least it means living in such a way that we might serve as a model to others.
In the second reading, St. Paul states: “We wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us.” Specifically, he wants Christians to earn their keep rather than expect others to provide for them. But in 1 Corinthians 11:1 he makes a broader claim: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Jesus is, indeed, the ultimate model of fear of the Lord. He was “obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). At La Salette, Mary invited us to reclaim this gift of the Holy Spirit.
It would be imprudent, if not arrogant, to tell others to imitate us. And yet, in a certain sense, our Christian faith is inevitably on display. As Jesus says in John 13:35: “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This, too, is fear of the Lord.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse