13 July, Monday — Heeding the Right Kind of Fear

Jul 13 – Memorial for St. Henry II

Henry II (972–1024) was the son of Gisella of Burgundy and Henry II the Quarrelsome, Duke of Bavaria. He was educated at the cathedral school in Hildesheim by Bishop Wolfgang of Regensburg. He became Duke of Bavaria himself in 995 upon his father’s death, which ended Henry’s thoughts of becoming a priest. He ascended to the throne of Germany in 1002, and was crowned King of Pavia, Italy on 15 May 1004. He married St. Cunegunda, but was never a father. Some sources claim the two lived celibately, but there is no evidence either way.

Henry’s brother rebelled against his power, and Henry was forced to defeat him on the battlefield, but later forgave him, and the two reconciled. Henry was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1014 by Pope Benedict VIII; he was the last of the Saxon dynasty of emperors. He founded schools, quelled rebellions, protected the frontiers, worked to establish a stable peace in Europe, and to reform the Church while respecting its independence.

He fostered missions, and established Bamberg, Germany as a centre for missions to Slavic countries. He started the construction of the cathedral at Basel, Switzerland; it took nearly 400 years to complete. Both Henry and St. Cunegunda were prayerful people, and generous to the poor.

At one point he was cured of an unnamed illness by the touch of St. Benedict of Nursia at Monte Cassino. He became somewhat lame in his later years. Following Cunegunda’s death, he considered becoming a monk, but the abbot of Saint-Vanne at Verdun, France refused his application, and told him to keep his place in the world where he could do much good for people and the advancement of God’s kingdom.

  • Patron Saint Index

Isa 1:10-17
Mt 10:34 – 11:1

But if you do not stand by me, you will not stand at all.

What do you fear the most in this life? What decisions have you made based on your fears, and how have you tried to avoid or face up to these fears? Today’s pop psychology will have many of us believe that fear is a negative emotion that obstructs one’s pursuit of success.

But, what if fear is a helpful and revelational emotion to help us understand ourselves better? What if, instead of silencing, ignoring, or unthinkingly conquering our fears, we choose a more gut-wrenching option of ‘sitting with the fear’? Our fears can reveal so much of what we value or are really anxious about.

The readings of Isaiah and Matthew today are a clarion call to us all to listen carefully to the Lord’s call to repent — before it may be too late. It may have sounded like fear-mongering to those who were hard of heart and hearing. Imagine an itinerant preacher coming to your town today to remind you of the biblical accounts of destruction to Sodom, Tyre and Sidon for the sins of their people. This preacher warns your community to repent today, or else judgement would likewise befall all. I am sure many would have laughed it off as insane and found this unpalatable. Some would even tell the preacher to get lost.

If we do not have the right and just fear of the Lord, many of our life’s choices and calculations would be evaluated against transient values and shifting goalposts. In modern parlance, this could be the fear of dwindling ‘Followers’ or ‘Likes’ on social media. The fear of being disliked for speaking hard truths. The fear of not keeping up with the joneses. These modern anxieties truly plague more minds than is revealed.

One of my greatest fears, after having battled cancer alongside my husband, is that I would lose him. Ever since, I now treasure all our time together, and I have come to learn a deeper lesson about seeking and offering forgiveness, quickly. At the same time, this fear can sometimes make me very anxious about any small ailments that he contracts. Largely, this fear has taught me what I deeply value and has given me courage and clarity to evaluate most of my present life’s decisions.

I suppose one larger question we need to ask ourselves today: If there is only one thing worth fearing in this life, what would yours be? In other words, what is that one inescapable fear that besets you at the most existential level and causes you to reflect on the purpose of your entire life at your deathbed?

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Proverbs 9:10.

The only thing that is certain, and does not ever change, is the commandment that God has given for us to live our lives by: Love God and my neighbour. It is a tall order, and yet a simple one. How can we live this?

Indeed, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Paying heed to the right kind of fear can only bring us the greatest sense of freedom. Freedom to know that by ordering our lives according to His Word and Truth, we will not be found unprepared when the Bridegroom comes.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: Help me Lord to develop a sensible fear for the things of Eternal Truth. Help me to reckon my life against the yardstick of things that truly matter in Eternity. 

Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord for the gift of holy fear, which is written however dimly on my soul, and guides me even in the darkest of moments. Thank you for the gift of the holy spirit who makes bright Your Truths and leads me out of rocky paths. 

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