(Joel 2:12-18; II Corinthians 5:20-6:2; Matthew 6:1-6.16-18)
At the beginning of the first “Rocky” movie, the protagonist is completely out of shape. He strains to run up the stairs of art museum in Philadelphia. Later, however, after weeks of training Rocky bounds to the height like a deer being chased. A transformation has taken place. Rocky has sloughed off both weight and lethargy to perform in a totally superior way. Such a transformation is our goal during Lent.
Although it may improve our health, shedding a few pounds should not be what motivates to give up donuts during this annual six week retreat. If it were, we would be no better than hypocrites whose righteousness, Jesus warns us in the gospel today, we must supersede. No, we must concern ourselves primarily with internal order not external appearance. Through fasting, prayer, and charity we hope to become like Jesus himself. His self-control and compassion are the high stars in heaven which we are shooting for.
It is only natural that we begin Lent with a touch of regret. It is hard to forsake comforts and concentrate our minds on what is holy. But our reluctance will turn into rejoicing at the end of the forty days. Then we will find ourselves renewed in soul and body.