You will teach me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence, Lord1.
Jesus teaches us with various images that the path that leads to Life, to holiness, consists in the full development of the spiritual life: the mustard seed, which grows into a large bush, where the birds of the air alight; the wheat, which reaches maturity and produces ears of grain in abundance.... This growth, which is not without its difficulties and which at times can seem slow, is the development of virtues. The sanctification of each day entails the exercise of many human and supernatural virtues: faith, hope, charity, justice, fortitude..., industriousness, loyalty, optimism....
The virtues require for their growth the repetition of acts, because each one of them leaves a disposition in the soul that facilitates the following one. For example, the person who already lives the "heroic minute" when getting up, overcoming laziness from the first moment of the day, will have more facility to be diligent with other duties, small or big, in the same way that the sportsman improves his physical form when he trains, and acquires greater aptitude to repeat his exercises. The virtues perfect man more and more, at the same time that they make it easier for him to do good works and to give a prompt and adequate response to God's will at every moment. Without the virtues - those good habits acquired by the repetition of acts and with the help of grace - every good act becomes costly and difficult, it remains only an isolated act, and it is easier to fall into faults and sins, which distance us from God. The repetition of acts in the same direction leaves its mark on the soul, in the form of habits, which predispose to good or evil in future actions, depending on whether they have been good or bad. From one who habitually acts well, it can be expected that in the face of a difficulty he will continue to do so: that habit, that virtue sustains him. That is why it is so important that penance erases the traces of the sins of the past life: so that they do not incline one to evil again; the more intense the penance, the more serious the falls or the longer the time spent separated from God, the greater the mark they will have left.
The exercise of the virtues indicates to us at all times the path that leads to the Lord. When a Christian, with the help of grace, strives not only to distance himself from the occasions of sin and to resist temptations with fortitude, but also to attain the holiness that God asks of him, he becomes more and more aware that the Christian life demands the development of the virtues and also the purification of sins and faults in correspondence to grace in the past life. Especially in this time of Lent, the Church invites us precisely to grow in the virtues: habits of doing good.