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Love vs. Fear

In a one of his sermons, St. Peter Chrysologus states that God would rather be loved than feared, would rather be Father than Lord. Yet if we examine how human beings have related to God throughout human history, we find that more often than not the human race seems to be attempting to appease God's anger rather than to return God's love.

This is certainly true of pagan cults. The Greek and Roman pantheons and the stories that surround these figures are filled with examples of how the gods and goddesses act out of anger and how humanity acts to appease that anger. Hera is angry at Zeus because of his infidelity so she tries to punish the illegitimate children of Zeus. Young maidens are exposed to beasts and demons unleashed by the gods in an attempt to save their cities from destruction.

The Hebrew Scriptures bear some of the same imprint. In order to appease God's anger, the Israelites offer the blood of goats and bullocks. The people of Nineveh cover themselves and their livestock in sack cloth and ashes in order to stave off the blazing anger of God.

Sadly Christians have taken up where the Israelites left off. While they no longer slaughtered animals to appease God's anger, they have engaged in harsh penances and mortification in reparation for sin.

Is it any wonder that we constantly hear the message "Do not be afraid" in the Scriptures? The message was taken up by the recently canonized St. John Paul II as he proclaimed it throughout his ministry. "Be not afraid."

In his first letter, St. John writes: There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. (I John 4:18) Yet I suspect that we find it easier to fear God than to love God. Why else would we hang on to these fears? Loving God is far more difficult than fearing God simply because we humans fear everything we do not understand. When we are confronted with the reality of a God who loves unconditionally, even to the point of dying for our sake, we embrace our guilt and live in fear of punishment rather than trying to live out that same kind of love in our own lives.

The Resurrection stands as proof of God's love for us. So much does God love us and desire to be loved by us that God has spared nothing to prove that love. God does not want sacrifices and oblations. God desires to be loved.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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