Keeping discipline in Lent is supposedly something we might feel good about. How rewarding is it to know that you can train yourself to not have a pint, or to not eat chocolate? Or conversely, when taking something on, to go to an extra mass a week? Aren’t we gaining good points in the eyes of God? Look at how virtuous we are!
Yet this misses the point. Lenten discipline shouldn’t be about self-satisfaction, but about walking more closely with Christ. “Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us.” Is it not better to think about the suffering we see around us every day? When Christ walked the earth, he spent time with those in need. Whilst we might not always be able to do that, shouldn’t a reminder at this time about the inability of some people to have what we have prick at our consciences?
To my shame, I get annoyed with people who talk through their disciplines and say “I can’t wait for Easter Day.” It’s a focus too much on the self and misses the reasoning behind fasting and abstinence. The Son of God fasted 40 days and only then began his great work. For us, should our thoughts more readily turn towards the work we can do for the outcast and dispossessed during this period?