Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why bother?

In the gospel we hear Jesus address the issue of why his disciples did not fast.

The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.

And indeed to this day in the Catholic Church we open and close Lent by fasting, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Here in the US it is obligatory for those ages 18-59.

In addition to fasting, there is abstinence. It is still the law of the Church that every Friday we should abstain from meat or do some other penitential act. Those last words seems to have gotten lost after Vatican II. Some people have the mistaken notion that we got rid of Friday abstinence all together. We did not. Every Friday, not just the Fridays during Lent are days of abstinence. The Church simply left it to each person to determine what they most needed to abstain from.

For some of us it might be a good idea to to have phone free Fridays, and abstain from checking our phone every five minutes. For others it may be abstaining from alcohol, and being the designated driver for your friends. For others perhaps Caffeine-Free Fridays is what you need to do. And for others who each too much meat anyway, the traditional abstinence from meat is what you need.

The Church has now put the choice entirely in your hands to determine where you as an individual need to abstain.

Why do we fast or abstain anyway? Why does it matter?

Just as every Sunday is kind of "little Easter", every Friday is a remember of Good Friday, the day Christ died for our sins. It is a penitential day. And which of us does not need to do penance?Which of us is perfect?

Is all of this merely tradition? Of course, but it is ancient and well-founded tradition. The first Bible verse I ever memorized was John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...." In a world where we are constantly surrounded with enticements to self-indulgence, it seems to me a good and proper things for us to stop each Friday, and recall in our thoughts and in actions the great sacrifice that brought about our salvation.