When we begin the season of Lent, one of the most prominent voices we hear is that of Jesus Himself, telling us that when we do penance, we ought to avoid making a show of it, by shouting out on the street corners or standing up in the place of worship to draw attention to ourselves. I can imagine why Jesus had cause to make these cautions, and can picture people doing the things the Lord warns against.
But the situation nowadays is different. The problem is not people showing off about their acts of penance, but that so many don’t even bother about doing penitential acts and prayers and giving of alms. Instead, the urging of the preacher is to prod the faithful to perform some meaningful acts of self-denial, and of charity to others in need, and improve habits of prayer and communal celebration of the Sacraments. These acts will answer Jesus’ call to make the season of penance meaningful to all.