"I, the LORD, explore the mind and test the heart..." (Jeremiah 17:10)
Have you felt tested this Lent? Have you discovered weaknesses that you were unaware of until now? Have you felt stretched?
Good! Praise God! These are blessings and while they don't usually seem like it at the time, this is the growth and the conversion of heart we are seeking this Lenten season.
The quote above was part of the first reading of last Thursday's Mass. I'd like to share with you what weakness the Lord revealed to me.
I was early to Mass that day and sat in my regular pew and was praying. A woman, who I didn't know came and sat down right next to me. So close that we were sharing a kneeler. Instead of continuing to pray, I couldn't let go of asking myself why she had to sit right next to me when there were 20 empty pews all around us! I wanted to get up and move. I wanted my personal space, but as I tried focusing to pray, I decided to stay.
When I heard the first reading, this part struck me:
"More tortuous than all else is the human heart,
beyond remedy; who can understand it?
I, the LORD, alone probe the mind
and test the heart,
To reward everyone according to his ways,
according to the merit of his deeds." (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Hearing those words, I realized that my heart was being tested and in my frustration of having this woman next to me, I saw my failure. I realized that if it had been a friend or someone I knew, I would have been glad to have them so close to me. In moments like that, you can't hide the truth from God. You can't make excuses. In moments like that, you face the truth and while it's humbling to see one's own weakness, it's an opportunity to ask The Lord to turn it into a strength. Being able to recognize Christ in everyone is truly a gift and something we must work towards every day. Often times we can recognize Christ in another, but do we take the next step and act that way? Speak in that way? Love in that way?
As I spent more time reflecting on this incident, I also started to see that I have many preferences. I think we all do. We prefer a certain mug more than another for our coffee. We prefer to eat our sides before the main portion of our dinner. We prefer to sit in the same pew each week at Mass. We prefer crunchy cookies instead of soft ones. We prefer to pray in a certain way. We prefer certain brands, stores, and music. We prefer to talk to a family member only on the weekends. We prefer, we prefer, we prefer! We have so many preferences!
And what happens when we don't get what we prefer? We usually end up frustrated, annoyed or maybe even angry.
God probes our minds and tests our hearts to help us see areas that we have become so attached to our ways. God is inviting us to look at our many preferences and to surrender them. The best way is when we recognize we have a choice of a preference, and to instead choose what we don't prefer. May you find the freedom in not doing what you prefer! And may you be surprised by what God has in store when we give up our will and practice self denial - even in little things.
"The more one mortifies his natural inclinations, the more he renders himself capable of receiving divine inspirations and of progressing in virtue." - St. Francis de Sales