If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness. But if you had asked almost any of the great Christians of old, he would have replied, Love. You see what has happened? A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance. The negative idea of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point. I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love. The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
From The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis
By posting this from Lewis today I am not thereby suggesting that we should abandon abstinence and fasting today. For one thing all Catholics over 14 are required to abstain today and all Catholics over 18 are required to fast. (Correction: the obligation for fasting starts at 18 and ends the day after the 59th birthday, which is the beginning of the 60th year.) But, more importantly, the reason they are required is because the Church recognizes that these penances can do us good. But, it must be done for the right reason. And this passage from Lewis can help us to understand the true purpose – to help us obtain that which we truly desire – Heaven.