Lent begins tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a day of abstinence and fasting, under which we are obliged to observe under pain of mortal sin (barring exemptions given by one's parish priest). While we are not obliged to go to Mass on Ash Wednesday, it is encouraged so as to enter into the Season of Penance in the right spirit.
It is also a day where many people begin to undertake their Lenten penances and sacrifices.
It is a good tradition, but one which comes with certain pitfalls. I am speaking of the temptation to treat one's Lenten penances and sacrifices as something like New Year's resolutions.
You know what I am talking about. The big plans to finally make this a Lent to remember. Minimal eating. Maximum prayer. Read all the pious books you can. Finally give up that silly habit that leads you to sin each time you engage in it. You know, finally become the Christian you were meant to be!
In a word, grandiose. Such plans were common when I was regularly attending the Novus Ordo. While I cannot speak for others definitely, I can speak of myself that I certainly concocted such plans. One year, I remember saying I would grow in charity that Lent, and other farfetched plans. Well, more than three years later, I am still growing in charity, and I doubt very much I succeeded in attaining those other plans!
Nor is this an issue confined solely to the Novus Ordo. It occurs in the Traditional Mass too. I say this not because I have done it or seen others do it; I say it merely because logic tells us that the same human weaknesses present in those who attend the Novus Ordo are also present in those that attend the Traditional Mass.
So, friends, take a good, hard look at your Lenten penances and sacrifices. Are they too much? Too idealistic? Too grandiose? Too geared towards, say, showing off for the sake of being admired? So others know that you are being such a good Catholic?
Remember, Our Lord said of the Pharisees in the Gospel,
And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. - Matthew 6:5In our day and age, just like it was in the ages past, it is a great temptation to become grandiose in our actions, so we may be seen by others and be known for the actions, and make ourselves into something we are not. It is something I am watchful for, first and foremost in myself, whenever I undertake something Church-related.
Pope Bergoglio likes to call his enemies Pharisees, amongst other cheerful epithets.
Do we want to prove him right this Lent?