This Lent, we have all begun to embrace sacrifices, some small, some large. The purpose of these sacrifices is not for boasting, not for dieting, not for saving money – they are for the purification of the soul.
Our souls need exercise, just like our bodies. The exercise the soul needs is one of detachment and re-attachment. This exercise is an analysis of what we desire and what we say we “need.” Are these desires orienting us toward God as God has called us? Are these “needs” real needs or are they merely desires to which we have become so attached that we now feel we need them?
Here is why self-denial is so spiritually beneficial – it teaches us how attached we have become to material things. Consider yummy ice cream. Give that up for Lent and you will realize how attached you are to that material thing. Give up something you do regularly, and you will see whether you are too attached to it or not.
Self-denial is also for another purpose – to create time. This time is for its own specific purpose – prayer. Just as with fasting, when we are called to give to the poor the money we save on food, so we are called to give to the Lord the time we save by rejecting earthly things and interests. If you stop watching a weekly or nightly tv show, you will be gifted a great amount of time. Use this for the true purpose of time – to find the Lord.
Perhaps you have very little time to free up for prayer, since your life is already so busy; but what little time you have, you are offering to God in order to grow in love for Him. This has a tremendous value to Our Lord. Let this call to mind something Our Lord told His Apostles:
And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny. And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living.”
How sweet it must be for Our Lord to hear the voices of His children who have sacrificed so much of the little time they have in order to spend it with Him!
See, too, the personality of Our Lord as this story reveals it. He sat down and watched everyone as they put their money in the treasury. He saw each one of them, and knew their intentions, and the amount they gave. See His delight, also, when he notices the widow, who gave to God all that she had. Imagine Him looking at you with that same approval, as you sneak away, perhaps just for a minute, to pray to Him, and to consecrate to Him what, out of your poverty, you possess.
 Mark 12:41-44