Today I’d like to write about myself. Throughout the course of my life I’ve tried to become closer to God. I’ve had many conversion experiences and I truly believe that I’ve gotten to know Jesus better over the years. Each day, I devote some time to prayer and reading. During Lent I give up sweets, which sounds simple but is very difficult for me. If the past few sentences sound rather egotistical, you’ll be surprised to hear that I’m using them to point out how often I fail to be holy! I’ve lost count of how many times I “mess up”, despite keeping up all of my external devotions.
The readings from today’s Mass (Is 58:1-9a, Mt 9:14-15) caution about fasting externally, but not internally. When we are keeping up our external practices of piety, we need to be careful about what’s going on inside. If we’re going to give up sweets for Lent, but are nasty to everyone we meet – maybe we need to either give up something else or think about what fasting really means. If we are going to become angry that our children interrupt our prayers (I’m guilty of this a lot!), then perhaps we need to get up a little earlier to pray (or stay up later). If we get mad at Church when someone asks us to move in so they can get into our pew, maybe an examination of conscience is in order… Do we really love our neighbor? Sometimes we get so caught up in our external devotions that we forget the reason for them. A friend of mine fell away from the Catholic Faith for many years, but he still didn’t eat meat on the Fridays of Lent. He didn’t go to Church or practice his faith, but he maintained the Lenten fast. If this sounds unusual, it really isn’t. We are all guilty of doing things like this at times.
One of the great things about the Lenten season is that it gives us a chance to analyze our lives and find areas that need improvement. We are all human and are prone to sin. Sometimes we do things that we shouldn’t (sins of commission) and sometimes we don’t do things that we should (sins of omission). Today let’s all take a look at our external devotions and make sure that our hearts are in the right place. Then we can be sure that The Lord will be pleased with our sacrifice.