How often do you think about the spiritual acts that you do, let’s say for Lent, are pleasing God? Why are you do act of penance? Really, why are you “giving something up for Lent”? If you are doing something to observe the 40 days of Lent, what or who is your guide, and why? How sufficiently aware are you when it comes to your attitudes, desires, ways of interacting with others? When I read the following passage these and other questions surfaced because the author is dead-on. In fact, he cuts a little too close to the heart.

By means of Scripture, the Church instructs her
children in the true meaning of Lenten penance for, as St. Leo the Great
comments: it is useless to deny food to the body if the soul does not reject
sin (4th Sermon of Lent). If mortification does not lead to an interior effort
to eliminate sin and practice virtue, it cannot be pleasing to God, who wants
us to serve him with a heart that is humble, pure and sincere

Selfishness and
the tendency to assert our ego too often lead us to put ourselves at the center
of the universe; we trample on the rights of others and in doing so evade the
fundamental law of brotherly love. That is why those Jews who fasted, wore
sackcloth and slept on ashes, but did not cease oppressing their neighbors,
were severely rebuked by God and their acts of penance were rejected
. It is of
little or no use to impose physical privations on ourselves if we are unable to
renounce our own interests in order to respect and promote those of our
neighbor; if we will not give up our views in favor of some one else’s; if we
do not try to get along with everyone and bear wrongs patiently

Scripture makes it very definite that what makes penitential practices
acceptable to God lies in the area of charity

Divine Intimacy
Father Gabriel
of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD