How Do I Know I Am Growing in Love with Christ?

Matthew 23: 1-12

1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’s seat; 3 therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it, but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. 4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others, but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. 5 They do all their deeds to be seen by others, for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringeslong. 6 They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues 7 and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to have people call them rabbi. 8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father, the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

Our Lord is at it again. He is doing, quite possibly, what he is most for, he is criticizing the Pharisees. Jesus says to follow their preaching. They have great things to say. Do not follow their example of life. It is only God who has the capacity to truly read hearts and see motives. Only God can know whether or not a heart is offering him true worship or not. When Jesus looks at the Pharisees he sees men who act and dress so as to exalt themselves. The purpose of true worship is to exalt God and remove the attention from ourselves. Only God knows the heart of each soul. So how do I know whether I am offering true worship God?

A tree is known by its fruit. Our Lord tells us that we know the tree is healthy by the fruit that it produces. In a particular moment in the Gospel he even desires to destroy a fig tree that hasn’t been doing what it is supposed to do. Is there a way for me to measure whether the tree of my life is producing the fruit that it is supposed to produce? How often in many aspects of our lives we have ways to measure. Is my income increasing? Are the goals being met? Is attendance increasing? Many times we even naturally set goals. If I want to finish this book by Christmas, I have to read this amount of pages each day. I can even now read the whole Bible, plus receive a commentary, in one whole year!

So how can I measure the fruitfulness of my worship? St. Paul in Galatians tells us we know when we are walking in the Spirit as opposed to the flesh. St. Paul characterizes the flesh as plain and obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idoloatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, envy, drunkenness, and the like. The Spirit of God is marked by charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, long-suffering, gentleness, self-control, chastity. When I look at my life do I find myself growing in the fruits of God’s spirit? Do I find myself more patient,
joyful, gentle, able to suffer for love a little bit more? Do I find that I have more control over myself? As we walk this life, there is always that lingering question in the back of our mind, am I on the right path? These are the markers that God, through St. Paul, has given us to measure true worship. These are the fruits of a tree that is bearing fruit. This is probably something that the Pharisees themselves would have preached about. St. Paul, after all, was a Pharisee himself.

Father Joshua West, LC
Board Member & Priest at Catholic World Mission | + posts

Father Joshua is the chaplain for NC State University and a priest with the Legionaries of Christ. Father Joshua resides in Raleigh, NC.