In the Lenten Scripture Reading for Ash Wednesday, the Prophet Isaiah explains that that fasting that does not lead to works of charity does us no good. Along with prayer and fasting, almsgiving is one of the three pillars of the Christian life. In his Message for Lent 2010, Pope Benedict extends this teaching of Isaiah. Our charity to others is an extension of the divine justice that brought us salvation through Jesus Christ, even though we do not merit it ourselves because of our sins.
Injustice, the Holy Father writes, "does not have exclusively external roots; its origin lies in the human heart, where the seeds are found of a mysterious cooperation with evil." Adam and Eve brought injustice into the world by abandoning obedience to God, Who is perfect Love, and instead "seizing and doing on one's own." From their act, we have come to believe that we can be self-sufficient, that we do not need God or others. But nothing, Pope Benedict says, could be further from the truth:
Conversion to Christ, believing in the Gospel, ultimately means this: to exit the illusion of self-sufficiency in order to discover and accept one’s own need—the need of others and God, the need of His forgiveness and His friendship.
Love—charity—is the fulfillment of the Law, and the desire of the soul. Because of our sins, we are unworthy of Christ's love, yet He loves us unconditionally:
Thanks to Christ’s action, we may enter into the "greatest" justice, which is that of love (cf. Rm 13, 8-10), the justice that recognises itself in every case more a debtor than a creditor, because it has received more than could ever have been expected.
We cannot open ourselves to the love of Christ without responding to His love by loving others. Charity, while a theological virtue, is thus a natural response to grace and a restoration of man's original nature.
As we struggle against our passions this Lent, we should keep the Holy Father's words in mind. You can read the entire text of Pope Benedict's Message for Lent 2010 at the Vatican's website.