During Lent, the words: prayer, fasting, almsdeeds, which I already mentioned on Ash Wednesday, often reach our ears. We are accustomed to think of them as pious and good works, which every Christian must carry out particularly in this period. This way of thinking is correct, but not complete. Prayer, almsdeeds and fasting need to be understood more deeply, if we want to integrate them more thoroughly into our lives and not to consider them just as passing practices which demand only something momentary from us or deprive us of something only momentarily. [...]
It should perhaps be said at once that it is not a question here only of momentary "practices", but of constant attitudes which give our conversion to God a lasting form. Lent, as liturgical time, lasts only forty days a year: we must, on the other hand, strain always towards God; this means that it is necessary to be continually converted. Lent must leave a strong and lasting mark on our lives. It must renew in us awareness of our union with Jesus Christ, who makes us see the necessity of conversion and indicates to us the ways to reach it. Prayer, fasting, and almsdeeds are precisely the ways that Christ indicated to us.
"The purpose of the acts of penitence [charity, fasting, prayer] is a sincere turning to God to be able to meet him deep down in the human being, in the recesses of the heart. [...] Therefore the first and principal meaning of penitence is interior, spiritual. The principal effort of penitence consists "in entering oneself", one's deepest being, entering this dimension of one's own humanity in which, in a certain sense, God is waiting for us."
"It is necessary to speak of our liberation in Christ; it is necessary to proclaim this liberation. It must be integrated in the whole contemporary reality of human life. Many circumstances, many reasons, demand this. Just in these times, in which it is claimed that the condition of "man's liberation" is his liberation "from Christ", that is, from religion, just in these times the reality of our liberation in Christ must become, for us all, more and more evident and more and more full."
"The Church, in order that she may carry out her mission with regard to the "world", must strengthen herself, deeply in her own mystery, and must construct thoroughly her own community, the community of the People of God, based on the apostolic succession, on the hierarchical ministry, on the vocation to exclusive service of God in the priesthood and in religious life, and on the laity aware of its own apostolic tasks."