You readers who have been with me for a while may have noticed that I have not mentioned my annual “Lenten Lesson.” Usually, I get an inkling of it near the beginning of Lent. A certain theme emerges. A certain issue is raised. A certain goal is set.
That didn’t happen this year. Oh, I started out with my typical plans: give up sweets, pray and go to Mass more often, attend the Friday evening Stations of the Cross.
But God had other plans, nearly all of which centered around other people. People in need. People making demands. Whenever I really wanted to just go to church or stay home and work on my spiritual life, I found myself going to somebody else or doing things for somebody else. Whenever I asked God what my Lenten Lesson was supposed to be, He would send me a person instead.
I have to say, I found it very frustrating at times, but whenever I began to feel frustrated or tempted to complain, there was always a voice in my head saying, “Be there for them. Love them and put them before yourself and your own desires. Be Christ for them. Do it for love of them. Love them for love of God.” And so, I managed to keep my mouth shut and my face free of frowns (although taming my mind wasn’t always successful).
Slowly, gradually, those words sank into me and took root, and acting as they prompted me to act started to become habitual. And during Holy Week, I finally realized it: that was my Lenten Lesson! To grow in charity, that divine virtue of loving God and loving other people for love of God. When I finally recognized what the lesson was, and realized how much I had been learning through experience, I felt much the wiser, and extremely grateful!
I see now the wisdom in not cluing me into the lesson ahead of time. Had I known it ahead of time, I may have acted charitably out of a kind of compulsion other than pure, simple love. I also may have become prideful and focused on myself, instead of focusing on God and others. By not setting forth the lesson ahead of time, God effectively took me out of it and made it more genuine and more truly other-centered.
God truly works in wondrous and mysterious ways, with such great wisdom!