A further problem that can come with a mere acceptance that the outward signs are enough to ensure holiness is the problem of a blind self-righteousness that is literally ‘unable to see the wood for the trees!’ If it is the outward sign that is the measure of holiness then it would seem to be possible to change ourselves by will power alone. This is definitely not the case.

True holiness and conversion of heart is measured by the interior conversion of mind and heart to the ways and will of God. This can express itself outwardly in often contradicting ways. Sometimes it is not the right thing to go to Mass on a Sunday. Before you call me a heretic let me explain. The self-righteous person will insist on Sunday Mass observance no matter what might happen. But should someone do if they are the only one at home that day with someone who is sick and is in need of constant care. You cannot leave the person on their own because this might endanger their life but at the same time you are supposed to go to Mass. The solution is obvious! The care of the sick person takes priority and actually becomes the means of greater holiness for the person who misses Mass in order to care for them! In this case to go to Mass would look right outwardly but would be wrong in terms what the person ought to have done.

Only God is the true judge of a person’s inward intention or motivation and thus we should refrain from being overly judgmental. God will look at the heart of a person when He judges and not just at what seems to be form the outside. Holiness is a function of many things, most of which are very difficult to measure from only external appearances.

Legalism is probably only a sure path to disappointment and failure, as we will eventually discover that our wills do not have enough power on their own to make us holy. One of the key aspects of the Gospel is the challenge to look at our heart-response to God and not just be ‘doing what we are supposed to be doing.’ To love someone means to give them your heart, not just go through all the right sorts of motions like an actor on the stage.

Is my heart in all that I say that I do for God or do I act out obligation rather than love?

Lord, your obedience to the Father was a result of your filial love. Help me to learn to love with the same faithfulness and devotion, with the same heartfelt sincerity and commitment.