The Responsorial Psalm may surprise us: “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord” (Psalm 112). We don’t
think of fear as a blessing. But if we read the rest of the Psalm, it tells us that those who “fear the Lord” will fear nothing else. Their children will be blessed. They will have wealth and righteousness. “They shall not fear an ill report; their hearts are steadfast, trusting the LORD Their hearts are tranquil, without fear, till at last they look down on their foes.”
This explains the next line: “Lavishly they give to the poor.” Those who fear the Lord are not particularly concerned about their security on this earth. They know that “their prosperity shall endure forever.” (Friday’s Gospel will give us Jesus’ teaching about this).
Paul’s theme in 2Corinthians 9: 6-11 is generosity.
The one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully…. God loves a cheerful giver. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity….
Generosity is the “fruit of the Spirit” (see Galatians 5:22) that logically follows from the “gift of the Spirit” that is fear of the Lord (see Isaiah 11:2). This “fear” is “the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10), which is defined as taste or appreciation for spiritual things.
To understand this, ask what fear is without the emotion of fright. It is clarity of perspective. We see what is good and bad for us in perspective, without underestimating either. When we see God in perspective, we realize that all our good is found in him and that anything that separates us from him is really bad for us. The resulting “awe and wonder” (another phrase for “fear of the Lord”) could paralyze us with fright. But in the mature it leads instead to total dedication to God. We are inspired to serve him with generosity. That is the “fruit of the Spirit.” This experience gives us a “taste” for spiritual things, which is wisdom. So we say, “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord.”
In Matthew 6: 1-18 Jesus elevates the three traditional Jewish acts of devotion: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. He tells us to make sure we do these as conscious responses to the person of God, and not just as routine practices of “cultural religion.” Even the “ministry of good example,” good in itself, can be divorced from live relationship (interaction) with God and become just a way of trying to influence people. This is inauthentic ministry. True ministry is to let God express himself in and through us, leaving the results to God. Total ministry is to let God express himself in everything we do. This is that “fear of the Lord” that “casts out fear” because it is “perfect love” (1John 4:18).
Initiative: Be a priest. Be generous in expressing love for God and others.