St. Claude de la Colombiere compares the little suffering we undertake each Lent to the suffering Jesus experienced on the cross.
During Lent the Church sets aside specific days where the Christian faithful are encouraged to fast from food and abstain from meat. The fasting is only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, while abstaining from meat is on each Friday of Lent.
Yet, we still complain!
The Church has lowered the bar over the centuries and eased the restrictions to the point that it is relatively easy to complete these basic bodily mortifications. Despite these modifications, we are weak human beings and balk at any type of penance.
St. Claude de la Colombiere gave a reflection on this topic in his book The Sufferings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and encourages us to look at Jesus to see how little our suffering are compared to his.
[I]n what manner did [Jesus] endure torment and humiliation? In every part of His body, in all His senses and in every possible way though…It is strange that after this people should find fault with corporal mortification…true penitence includes also the humiliation of the body. That of Jesus was boundless, not only because all His sufferings were accompanied with shame and ignominy especially the smiting on the face, the flagellation and the crucifixion, but also because He was spit upon, dragged in the mud, dressed up as a lunatic as a mock king for the punishment of luxury and vanity and to give a public testimony to the pain He endured on account of them. If you contemplate Jesus in this condition, you will certainly be deeply moved and if you consider yourselves, you will perhaps be ashamed to find that you bear so little resemblance to penitent sinners.
Furthermore, when we keep this image of Jesus in our minds, what the Church asks of us in terms of fasting is minuscule.
Let us begin by fasting, which is a matter of necessity. Nothing shows more clearly how little real penitence we have, than disobedience in this respect. Alas we have committed sins which forty years fasting on bread and water would not expiate, and the Church, our good mother, reduces it to forty days! And to what kind of fasting? So slight and so easy in our time and yet we cannot make up our minds to it.
There are certainly many just health reasons that dispense someone from fasting and abstinence. However, this doesn’t mean everyone is dispensed from such a practice.
If you ever think the Church’s guidelines about fasting and abstinence are too strict and difficult to endure, meditate on Jesus’ suffering on the cross.