[pre-sermon note on almsgiving during Lent: Remember that the poor live a much harder Lent than we do, and they live it all year long. Our Lent should provide some savings which is given to the poor. When you are really craving whatever you sacrificed this Lent, consider making a small donation for alms as a way of connecting fasting and almsgiving]
There are three ages of the spiritual life: The beginners, the proficients, and the perfect; or the purgative way, the illuminative way, and the unitive way.
The beginners are attached to sin and to the world, and though they have truly begun to follow God and do desire to be holy, they still have a worldly outlook and worldly goals.
The proficients have broken their attachment to the world and strive to avoid sin. Their focus is on God and his glory, and they seek heaven; but they approach the spiritual life from an human perspective and with human judgments (looking for human success in the spiritual life). They have entered into the life of infused contemplation in prayer.
The perfect have broken all attachment to the world and to sin. They live in constant union with God and have a totally supernatural world-view. These are the great saints. They still commit some venial sins, but they are very humble and follow God unreservedly.
One of the main reasons why people remain as beginners their whole life is a failure to practice bodily mortification. It is true that interior penance is more important than physical or bodily mortification (like fasting), but if we can't practice external penance we will never be able to practice interior penance. If I can't give up meat, I'll never be able to give up pride!
Lenten penance and bodily mortification (especially fasting and abstinence) is a great means of attaining spiritual growth!
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