Fear & Discernment
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples – and us – to fear no one, but rather “…fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
It is not uncommon for people to experience some fear when discerning their vocation in life. There are fears of missing out, or making a mistake by picking the “wrong vocation”, or the “wrong person”. There are fears that if I choose or don’t choose a particular vocation, God will become displeased with me, or I might not make it to Heaven.
One of the co-founders of the Congregation of the Resurrection, Fr. Peter Semenenko, points out that fear, haste, and anxiety, are not signs of the presence & action of the Holy Spirit. Fear is always of the unknown, and so in a sense we will always have fears, as long as there are things that are unknown to us.
The gift of the Holy Spirit, the Fear of the Lord, is not about being “afraid” that God is going to zap us for something. The actual gift of the Fear of the Lord is the fear of our own real capacity to separate ourselves from the God whom we love. It’s a fear based on love, not punishment. It’s like the fear you have of hurting someone you love – you’re not so much afraid of how they might punish you, but about the potential damage we could cause to our relationship with this person we love.
The gift of the Fear of the Lord gives direction to our fears. When the fear of separating ourselves from God – because we love God – is really the one thing we fear most, our fears can be overcome, because we have something that actually matters more to us. Vocation discernment involves standing up to your fears about any given vocation, and seeing them in the light of what matters most.