I really love the book of Isaiah. In today's Mass readings he really calls it like it is. "Your fast ends in quarrelling and fighting, striking with the wicked claw".
Various bloggers have commented that certain penitential acts (giving up caffeine, or rigidly fasting, or the like) have in the past been more penitential for the housemates of the penitent than for the penitent herself.
I remember as a children that we sometimes competed for the 'medal' of 'most rigorous penance', without much thought as to what the true purpose of this time in the wilderness should be.
Given that our culture celebrates the seasons before they happen (Christmas from 11-1 to 12/24, as an example) I should not be surprised that the Easter candy is already on full display, tempting me horribly. Take, for example, Cadbury's eggs. That is a confection that I dearly enjoy, and I know that by Easter it will no longer be available. For me to go to the grocery store has become a penitential act, as I walk past all the premature Easter displays and try to remember that Lent has just started.
Eating fish and seafood is not penance (for me), but eating beans and rice is. The penitential meals are the ones that take time to think out and prepare. Abstaining from the quick fix meal is a household penance - one that is perhaps more sacrificial than frozen fish and chips or boxed mac and cheese. Acts of penance demand time and not just stuff - maybe even more so in our culture that worships the fast fix and complains about 'wasted time'.
I am not sure that going away for a weekend conference at the onset of Lent was the wisest decision I have made - but here I am. At the breakfast buffet this morning, I was struck by the sheer quantity of food available from which to choose. I sincerely hope that this hotel (and others) have ways to donate excess to local food banks rather than destroy the leftovers.
I also wonder how many fill their stomachs with food they don't need, trying to assuage the emptiness of a life without God.