17th Saturday in Ordinary Time
Leviticus 25: 1, 8 – 17; Ps 67; Matthew 14: 1 – 12
The passage from the Book of Leviticus ends with: “…but stand in the fear of your God. I, the Lord, am your God.”
It is this fear, this profound reverence of God that separates John the Baptist from Herod and his wife. Herod feared for his reputation, his throne; his total concern was for himself; John the Baptist feared neither Herod nor Herodias because for him, it was from the fear of the Lord, a profound, liberating freedom that he spoke the truth even though he would pay for it with his life.
“…stand in the fear of the Lord” the Book of Leviticus admonishes us. The verb “stand” brings to mind for us in our monastic life the vow of stability; that we are committed to live and die here in this Monastery of the Genesee – living each day more and more in and into the fear of the Lord – again, never a fear that limits or paralyzes but leads us into the most sacred relationship, our life in Christ.
Standing in the fear of the Lord is not the monopoly of monks; it is the stance, the mark, the attitude of anyone baptized into Christ and it should be. The stability of Baptism is living and dying with profound reverence and gratitude into the mystery of God revealed in the Lord Jesus. It is the most sacred, the most personal, the most important journey bar none – a gift of the Holy Spirit.
It has been said that the best commentary on Scripture is Scripture itself. In the Book of Sirach, Chapter 40, the inspired author writes of his experience:
“Wealth and vigor build up confidence, but better than either, fear of God.
Fear of the Lord leaves nothing wanting;
the one who has it need seek no other support:
The fear of God is a paradise of blessings;
is canopy, all that is glorious.” (40: 26f)
Not hyperbole – rather truth that sets free. Through our prayer may such fear of the Lord be ours.