(I John 4:11-18; Mark 6:45-52)
“Are we to fear God?” the man asked the priest after mass. When the priest gave a qualified “yes,” the man walked away disappointed. “Why would one fear God who loves him or her so much that He gave the world His Son?” the man seemed to be asking in his retreat. The first reading today casts some light on the question.
Implying that fear of God is natural, John writes, “…perfect love drives out fear.” In the beginning fear reigns because the force that created the stars and the mind that designed the human brain compel awe with accompanying fear and trembling. But in Jesus Christ God has revealed Himself to be tenderer than a happy mother toward her child. To the extent that one accepts Christ’s revelation, he or she no longer need fear God but can delight in His favor. The person then imitates God in His love for others.
Of course, faith sometimes wanes. We don’t necessarily lapse into fear but replace as our heart’s desire the God created us with a poor substitute – most often, fun, fame, or fortune. We no longer imitate God’s tenderness but become hardened in our pursuit of satisfaction. For this reason the Church retells the story of God’s love every year with Christmas.