The Gospel according to Matthew (9:14-15)
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast much, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”
Reflection: Fridays in Lent…are you ready for them? Every Friday in Lent is a day of abstinence from meat. So be sure to embrace this little sacrifice today in union with our entire Church. What a blessing it is to offer sacrifice as an entire Church!
Fridays in Lent (and, in fact, throughout the year) are also days in which the Church asks us to do some form of penance. Abstinence from meat certainly falls into that category, unless you dislike meat and love fish. The most important thing to understand about Fridays in Lent is that they should be a day of sacrifice. Jesus offered the ultimate sacrifice on a Friday and endured the most excruciating pain for the atonement of our sins. We should not hesitate to offer our own sacrifice and to strive to spiritually unite that sacrifice to Christ’s. Why would we do that?
At the heart of the answer to that question is a basic understanding of redemption from sin. It’s important to understand the unique and profound teaching of our Catholic Church on this. As Catholics, we do share a common belief with other Christians throughout the world that Jesus is the one and only Savior of the world. The only way to Heaven is through the redemption won by His Cross. In a sense, Jesus “paid the price” of death for our sins. He took on our punishment.
But with that said, we must understand our role and responsibility in receiving this priceless gift. It’s not simply a gift that God offers by saying, “OK, I paid the price, now you’re completely off the hook.” No, we believe He says something more like this, “I have opened the door to salvation through my suffering and death. Now I invite you to enter that door with me and unite your own sufferings with mine so that my sufferings, united with yours, will bring you to salvation and freedom from sin.” So, in a sense, we are not “off the hook;” rather, we now have a way to freedom and salvation by uniting our lives, sufferings and sins to the Cross of Christ. As Catholics, we understand that salvation came at a price and that the price was not only the death of Jesus, it’s also our willing participation in His suffering and death. This is the way that His Sacrifice transforms our particular sins.
Fridays in Lent are days in which we are especially invited to unite ourselves, voluntarily and freely, with the Sacrifice of Jesus. His Sacrifice required of Him great selflessness and self-denial. The small acts of fasting, abstinence and other forms of self-denial you choose dispose your will to be more conformed to Christ’s so as to be able to more completely unite yourself with Him, receiving the grace of salvation.
Action of the Day: Take time today to think about the small sacrifices you are called to make this Lent—especially on Fridays in Lent. Make the choice to be sacrificial today and you will discover that it is the best way to enter into a deeper union with Jesus.