Posted by: wordofthevine | November 12, 2014

How do we know if we are growing spiritually?

How do we know if we are growing spiritually? Or, if those close to us are? What an 051important question to ask! Sometimes we may think that we are getting closer to God because of the rich experience or desire we have for prayer, for God and the Sacraments. While this often happens early in the spiritual journey, that God attracts us to Himself and into a lifestyle of holiness with rich experiences, this is not necessarily the barometer of our spiritual state. Maturing prayer often becomes more arid and dry. Why? Because God wants us to grow up; He wants to change our spiritual taste buds so we can handle the Cross. Certain important virtues can only sprout and grow when the terrain of our soul changes and the pursuit of God becomes more difficult. Think of the virtues of hope, and of faith. When the going is easy and God seems right there, what do we have to hope for or exercise our faith to hold onto.

The Lord is about purifying our intention to love Him and others. He does this, like any good personal trainer, by allowing life to challenge us so we can persevere onward through the resistance. Think about any close personal human relationship. We are attracted to the person and relationship, learn about each other and then learn to love each other with gifts and short comings. The Cross comes into even the best friendships and marriages so we can love one another with less self interest.

Therefore, we can tell if we are growing spiritually, not by how prayer feels, but by how faithful we are able to be towards it and those people around us. Do we show up for prayer for the amount of time we decided beforehand? Do we see fruits in our lives of greater freedom to love, to care for those who may thwart or reject us? Can we readily offer random acts of kindness to those who can’t pay us back now or ever? Can we lovingly confront others, when saying something honest will help them grow? Or, do we worry they won’t like us if we do?

Last Sunday, my family went to a restaurant after Mass for breakfast, my husband and myself along with three of our four sons: Paul, a college student, Patrick, a senior in high school and Timothy, a sophomore in high school. No one talked, except me. I asked the question: “Have you ever experienced Jesus as real?” Each of my sons deflected the question. I waited and got quiet. When they shared about upcoming exams etc., I encouraged them to invite Jesus into the experience. I felt discouraged and sad for what seemed to be a lack of availability/relationship with God in my kids. It wasn’t until the evening when I suggested we pray with the Gospel reading that I saw fruit. The high schoolers who were home came readily to our prayer spot and they shared what jumped out for them. The next day, Patrick, the senior, agreed to wait for his younger brother after school so he could return his football equipment. Sunday, I was discouraged because I was trying to gauge their Christian commitment by how enthusiastically they responded to my inquiry rather than by watching for signs of the fruits. (I also learned that I need wisdom when I relate with them about God. Maybe hammering them with questions is not the best way!) What about you? What fruits of God- with- you do you see in your life or in those you care about? ~ Mary


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