This gift “allows us to imitate the Lord in humility and obedience, not with a resigned and passive attitude, but with courage and joy.” “The Holy Spirit turns us into Christians convinced that we are not subject to the Lord out of fear, but rather conquered by his paternal love.” Fear of the Lord is an “alarm” that awakens us “to the presence of sin in our lives” and reminds us that one day we will “be held accountable to the just Judge that when we start to sin, this spiritual gift can help direct the faithful back on the right path.
Things to Do
Let us lean on the heart of Jesus; and driven on the stormy sea of this world, under the protection which He grants to those who love Him, we shall one day triumphantly enter the desired port, and enjoy the eternal blessings of that holy guidance. Death was always precious in the sight of God, for Jesus was to pass through its portal; it is precious to Him still, for Jesus has died. No one who is devout to the heart of Jesus will fail to find at the moment of his death more excellent and abundant treasures than he had ever expected to receive. Death, precious to Himself, will not Our Lord render it also inexpressibly so to us?
Faith cannot mistake the proofs of His tenderness. If we may venture to say so, the exile of the being He created is a sorrow to Him as much as to the soul itself; for, like a tender father, God desires that His children should be with Him in His kingdom. Of all the hours of life this is the one which is the most precious in the sight of God, exerts the greatest power over His love, and for this very reason has such a mighty influence over His mercy and justice. In order to receive the fulness of the new life to be merited by repentance through the divine reparation every man must undergo the terrible suffering of death; but is not this suffering, caused by sin, like all other trials, a token of love on the part of God? Without death life could not attain to its end; without death how could the soul ever reach eternal life?
The rebel angel escaped the sentence of death, but for him there was no resurrection. It is decreed that man should die, or, rather, the soul, cleansed by the blood of Our Lord, and vivified by His love, passes into eternity before the body which it shall one day glorify; united together they are called by Jesus to reign in heaven in a state so exalted that it could not have been won by primeval innocence. Even in this world, without awaiting the eternal glorifying of humanity, the most beloved amongst the friends of God experience through their whole being a marvelous transformation which robs death of its terrors, and wholly disengages them from this transitory world. The interior light by which they are led is no longer human, but divine, through Jesus; and a supernatural love is substituted for that natural love which they made their law; and not only are their criminal affections destroyed, but the love of God above all things gives them, even in this life, a foretaste of heaven. They feel no longer an engrossing care for the preservation of the body, but sigh after death, crying incessantly to God, with St. Paul, “I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ. They exult when they hear the clock strike, at the thought that one hour less remains for them to pass in this exile; death is no longer a passage of sorrow, but the desired way by which they shall go to the Lord; they sigh after it, they desire it, and would fain hasten the moment of its approach by the ardor of their desire for the enjoyment of a never-ending eternity. One single thing restrains them: it is when the perfection of love imposes on them a law of charity yet stronger, which would detain them in this world for the glory of God and the good of their brethren; says St. Teresa, “thus do souls arrive at a strict union with Jesus.” Thus ardently they have desired to die in order to enjoy the presence of Our Lord; this is their martyrdom that their exile is prolonged; yet they are so inflamed with the desire of knowing Him, of making His name hallowed, of being useful to the souls of others, that far from sighing after death they would wish to live for many years, even amidst the greatest sufferings, too happy in being able to add to the glory of their divine Master. Perfect submission in death is an act of entire adoration, a magnificent profession of faith and praise; its beauty consists in the cheerful and ready sacrifice which the creature makes to the Creator of the life which He had given, shadowing forth God s power in all its grandeur. Death beholds the soul already in adoration annihilated at the thought of the near approach of eternity; this, we may well imagine, is the kind of death the angels love to contemplate. The soul takes to itself no merit, places no trust on the way in which it has served God, and desires to possess even the smallest consolation the Church can bestow. It is specially attracted by the sanctity of God, which makes it aspire to become pure, pure almost beyond conception, in order to appear before the inviolable majesty of God; relying only on His mercy; never losing its confidence in the greatness of the divine compassion, but fearing lest its offences may be beyond the reach of pardon; dying the death of a child, with its eyes fixed on the countenance of its tender Father. Why, then, when in a state of grace, should we entertain a fear of death?”
Whosoever dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God abides in him.” He who loves God is then sure of His grace and dying in this state is certain of enjoying forever the sovereign good in the habitations of the elect. And can such a one fear death?
David has, however, said that no living man is entirely pure in the sight of God. Thus no one should have the presumption to hope for salvation through his own merits; for, except Jesus and Mary, no one was ever exempt from sin. But we need not fear death when we have a true sorrow for our faults, and place our confidence in the merits of Jesus, who came on this earth in order to redeem and save sinners, for whom He shed His blood, for whom He died. The blood of Jesus Christ, says the Apostle, cries more loudly in favor of sinners than the blood of Abel for vengeance against Cain. Grace transforms into a brilliant light that which by its nature was plunged in darkness and obscurity, and the plaintive cry of our misery is changed into a song of triumph; for the fetters which yet separate the soul of the dying from the heavenly Jerusalem are so near being severed asunder that the triumphant alleluias of heaven mingle with the lamentations of earth, and the last gaze of repentant love is tenderly fixed on the crucifix till earth fades from view. The transit of the creature from time to eternity is dear to the Creator; for precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints. Let us throw aside, then, those vain fears of death, and regard it as a tribute which all must pay to nature. Let us be ready cheerfully to leave this world when Our Lord shall call us to the land where the saints await us, and where we shall meet those who have instructed us in the faith, and whose victory will in some measure supply for the negligence with which we have performed our own duties toward our heavenly Father. Let us unite ourselves to those glorious troops of blessed spirits who are seated in the kingdom of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; into which the good thief entered in triumph after a life of sin, and now enjoys, in the company of the elect, the ineffable delights of paradise; where there is no darkness nor storms, no intense heat, excessive cold, sickness, or sorrow ; and where there is no need of the light of the sun, because the Sun of justice alone enlightens the heavenly Jerusalem.