“Denying material food, which nourishes our body, nurtures an interior disposition to listen to Christ and be fed by His saving word. Through fasting and praying, we allow Him to come and satisfy the deepest hunger that we experience in the depths of our being: the hunger and thirst for God.”
—Pope Benedict XVI
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the need for fervent prayer for the intentions of life, marriage, and religious liberty in the United States. I mentioned that the US bishops had approved a pastoral strategy with 5 action items for us all to offer for the intentions mentioned above.
One of those items happens to be fasting and abstaining from meat, every Friday.
Now, officially, we are only under obligation to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. And abstaining specifically from meat is only required on Fridays during lent (though according to the code of Canon Law 1251, we are still required to abstain from another sort of food on all other Fridays throughout the year if we are going to eat meat).
Can. 1251: Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday. Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
I’m telling you all this so you know that it’s not sinful to not fast on Fridays. It’s something extra that the bishops are asking of us because of the times we are living in. They are not ordinary times.
Practically speaking, in our culture Friday is one of the worst days to declare a fast. It’s the end of the workweek. It’s date night. It’s the night to reward yourself for the long hours you put in this week. And what better reward than of slice of that chocolate cake? I can attest to the difficulty of sticking to fasting on Fridays now that I have a husband to cook for. Tyler gets up early every morning to go to work for us, and so on Fridays it’s extra hard for me to fight the urge to bake some celebratory end of the week chocolate chip cookies.
But Friday is no ordinary day. It’s the day our Savior died for us. It’s the day of the Cross. The truth is that if our eyes and hearts are not on the Cross and on the Crucified One on Fridays, then our priorities are out of whack (and I’m convicted here, too).
So, in the threat of religious persecution— in the face of opposition for standing up for the truth— what better day to offer sacrifice? What better day to unite ourselves to the redemptive suffering of our Lord?