Today the Catholic Church celebrates the memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher, theologian and Doctor of the Church.
Aquinas said many things we would find offensive today. I take particular umbrage at some of the things he said about women. Things like: “As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active power of the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of a woman comes from defect in the active power.”
On a variety of subjects, however, Aquinas has offered much for us to reflect on. In connection with today’s Gospel, the Magnificat reflection for today quotes him talking about Fear of the Lord, one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that is frequently misunderstood.
Aquinas explains that one of the things that helps us to persevere in doing good is a “continual wholesome fear, for as soon as man thinks that he is so secure that he cannot fall he then and there fails to perform good words. ‘Unless you hold yourself diligently in the fear of the Lord, thy house will be quickly overthrown.’ (Sir 27:3) The fear of the Lord is the safeguard of life.”
Reading Aquinas’ words reminds us that fear of the Lord is not about fear of punishment. Rather it is about understanding that in ourselves there is no security, but that our security lies in God. Fear of the Lord is about awe and reverence for our God in whom lies our salvation.