Lent cannot be measured in prayers, or in self-denial, or in acts of charity, no matter how necessary and beneficial they are. For they are but the blessed, and graced, means to a greater end. What fills Lent with its special meaning is the opportunity to, and the reality of, true intimacy with Jesus our Christ. For Jesus comes to us in a myriad of ways, through grace in prayer, and self-denial, and acts of charity toward the poor.
But most of all Jesus comes to us as Himself.
He comes to us through His Body the Church. As Head of His Body, and Groom to His Bride, Jesus offers Himself, lovingly, freely, in vulnerability to rejection, in His Real Presence in the Eucharist, in His Truth in Sacred Scripture, and in His healing Mercy in the Sacraments. He is also present in His Apostles, His saints, and, especially, in His poor.
And in His Presence He brings three gifts of Love...
"This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own." Isaiah 58:1-9
As the Word of God Incarnate, and as the Perfect(ed) man, Jesus of Nazareth not only practiced religion to external perfection, but brought it forth from a heart on fire with Love for God His Father. In Jesus' burning Love for us, exemplified on the Cross, and perpetuated in the Eucharist, Jesus desires--from His Sacred Heart--that we practice true religion from the same burning heart.
But this can only be accomplished with (daily) intimacy with Jesus.
"For you are not pleased with sacrifices; should I offer a burnt offering, you would not accept it. My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn." Psalm 51:3-6, 18-19
True religion is based on authentic intimacy; authentic intimacy is based on honesty, and honesty is based on reality. Reality, is that we are sinners and Jesus is our Merciful, Loving, and compassionate Savior. Lent, therefore, serves as a signpost on the Way to the Father, through the Blood of His Son, in the Spirit of increasing fervor for intimacy with our Triune God.
Yet, the third gift is the most amazing of them all...
"Jesus answered them, 'Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?'" Matthew 9:14-15
For three days Jesus was held in the tomb of human death. For three days His disciples truly fasted. Holy Week, moreover, with Holy Thursday eve through Holy Saturday, we commemorate this fasting period, where our Lord, Savior, Head, and Groom, entered into death to save us.
But we know He is Risen!
Therefore, the greatest gift we are given (rather, reminded that we have already been given) is the gift of our Marriage to Jesus our Christ. As disciples of Christ, baptized children of God, we are members of the Church, One Body, One Bride, married to our Savior in the Holy Spirit of His Love.
And we must remember, in marriage, two become One in Love. Consequently, they (we) beget, in the Spirit, and in the Life of the Church in the world, Life-saving Love.