The efficacy of authentic penance, which is the conversion of the heart to God, can be lost if we fall into the temptation, frequent then and now, of overlooking the fact that sin is personal. In the First Reading of the Mass, the prophet Ezekiel warns the Jews of his time not to forget the great lesson of exile, for they saw it as something inevitable and forged of old for the sins of others. The Prophet declares that the punishment is a consequence of the actual sins of each individual. The Holy Spirit speaks to us, through his words, of individual responsibility and, therefore, of penitence and personal salvation. Thus saith the Lord: He that sinneth, he shall die; the son shall not bear the guilt of the father, the father shall not bear the guilt of the son; upon the righteous shall his righteousness fall, upon the wicked shall his iniquity fall....".
God wants the sinner to convert and live, but he must cooperate with his repentance and works of penance. Sin," says John Paul II, "in the true and proper sense, is always an act of the person, because it is a free act of the individual person, and not precisely of a group or a community. To relieve man of this responsibility "would mean eliminating the dignity and freedom of persons, which are revealed - albeit in such a negative and disastrous way - also in this responsibility for the sin committed. And so, in every man there is nothing so personal and non-transferable as the merit of virtue or the responsibility of guilt."
Therefore, it is a grace of the Lord not to fail to repent of our past sins nor to mask our present ones, even if they are only imperfections, failures of love.... May we too be able to say: for I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me. It is true that one day we confessed our faults and the Lord told us: Go, go and sin no more6. But sins leave an imprint on the soul. "Once the guilt is forgiven, the relics of sin remain, dispositions caused by previous acts; they remain, however, weakened and diminished in such a way that they do not dominate man, and are more in the form of a disposition than a habit. In addition, there are sins and faults that are not noticed because of a lack of spirit of examination, because of a lack of delicacy of conscience.... They are like bad roots that have remained in the soul and that it is necessary to uproot by means of penance to prevent them from generating bitter fruits
There are many reasons to do penance in this time of Lent, and we should make it concrete in small things: mortification in meals -like the abstinence commanded by the Church-, to live punctuality, to keep the imagination.... And also, with the advice of the spiritual director, of the confessor, other mortifications of greater importance, which help us to purify our soul and to atone for our own sins and those of others.