Our capacity for self-deception


Matthew 7: 21 - 27

Can this be right? That to even those who know the Lord and have exercised miraculous gifts, the Lord might say, “I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.” Surely something is wrong here in the translation?

The reason our Lord warns us in this way is that we have a tremendous capacity for self-deception. We might think we know the Lord, but we might well have deceived ourselves. So how can we know that we are the Lord’s?

Well we are apt to see miraculous gifts as proof that we are on God’s side. Surely if someone is exorcising demons or doing other might acts in the name of the Lord, that person is on the way to salvation? We might seek signs in the world that suggest that we are going the right way.

In fact that may not be the case, as the Lord warns us. We draw closer to the Lord through grace. According to Catholic teaching there is a distinction made between sanctifying grace and the graces we might call charismatic. Particular charismatic graces are for the building up of the whole Church but are not necessarily signs that we are close to God and truly know Him! Sanctifying grace alone makes us fit for heaven. Sacramental grace is grace proper to each of the Sacraments and sanctifies us. Charismatic gifts are not for our own sanctification, they are for the whole Church in order to build the Church up and to save souls.

Grace is not something we can feel. Grace is of the supernatural order. Because of this, we cannot tell through our feelings whether or not we are growing in grace. So the question then is how do we know we are growing in sanctification?

There is only one sure test. The answer is given by our Lord in the gospel today: “he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Sanctifying grace is manifested through conforming our will to the Father’s will. We conform our will to the Father’s will through knowing our Lord Jesus Christ (in prayer, sacraments, and Holy Scripture) and, most importantly, by obeying Him. This, and only this, will reveal to us that we are growing in sanctifying grace.

So the Lord invites us to build our house on the rock, which is listening to our Lord Jesus Christ and obeying Him.


Fr Ian