Dearly beloved, we have been taught by our Redeemer, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word of God,” and so it is right that all Christians, no matter how much they fast, should cultivate the desire to satisfy themselves with the “Word of God” rather than bodily food.
Therefore, let us begin this Lenten season with eagerness, ready to progress in devotion to our Lord, not by an empty fasting or almsgiving, but through generous compassion and good will. . . .
Let works of mercy be our delight, and let them be the food that fills us for eternity. Let us rejoice in the satisfaction of the poor when we give from our bounty. Let us delight in the clothing of those whose nakedness we have covered. Let our compassion and generosity touch the sick in their illness or infirmities, the exiles in their hardships, the orphans in their destitution, and the widows in their sadness. . . . No one’s income is small, whose heart is big; and the measure of one’s mercy and goodness does not depend on the size of one’s means. Wealth of goodwill is never lacking, even in a slender purse. . . .
Lenten observances, rightly followed, can make hatred turn into affection and enmity turn to peace; wrath can be quenched by meekness, and wrongs forgiven by gentleness. They are a way, my beloved, that God’s mercy can enter your life, sins be forgiven, and Easter be rightly celebrated. So we should forgive faults, loosen bonds, wipe out offenses, and let go of vengeance. In this way, the Easter festival will find us all happy and innocent by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns forever. Amen.
Adapted from St. Leo the Great, Sermon 40, On Lent (4–5).