Our Lord tells us how to behave during Lent when He speaks to us in the Ash Wednesday Gospel (Matt: 6:16-21):
“When you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to thee, they have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee. Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth; where the rust and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven; where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.”
So let us remember, when we choose something to give up: no moaning and groaning! Hypocrites (Our Lord was talking about the Pharisees) make much of their performances because they want attention. That being their motives, He says, they already have their reward: attention. There will be opportunities, before Lent is over, for us to attract attention, but so long as this is not our motive, we can accept and use whatever God permits to come to us.
A father will be asked by business associates why he, too, doesn’t order steak for lunch. One mother will be asked by fellow club-members why she doesn’t eat sandwiches and cake after their evening business meeting. Some children will be asked why they say “No, thank you,” to proffered candies at school, to decline and invitation to a Lenten movie, to not join with others to watch a television show. These are the opportunities, with many more, to give reasons “for the faith that is in you.” (1)
The Main Tips: We know that, if pressed or if asked why we refuse certain activities or foods, we need not say, “Because I’m fasting” or “Because I gave that up for Lent.” If, however, someone continues to urge us, we can say (with a smile!), “Thank you for offering, but at the moment I don’t care for any” or something to that effect, so that we don't (1) shame the person who is urging us and (2) give the impression of being a bit of a braggart, a "holier-than-thou." Otherwise, we have found another way to draw attention to ourselves.