Lent is Back?
Dear POP Folks,
Lent is past and we can move on, or can we? Should the neophytes, newly-baptized in the waters of Easter, announce that they have now graduated and go back to living life just as before? Hardly.
The Catechism reminds all of us that the Bible and the early Church Fathers insist above all on three forms of penance in the Christian life: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (works of mercy), which correspond to acts of conversion in relation to oneself, to God, and to the neighbor (n. 1434).
In the Catholic Church, we observe a season of penance (Lent) and days of penance (every Friday). Yes, every Friday. We older folks remember when every Friday was a day of abstaining from meat. The Church community together fasted from the flesh of warm-blooded animals as an act of self-denial on the day on which Jesus died for our sins. The Church has never abandoned the idea of the importance of community penance and fasting. Fridays are days of fasting and self-denial all year long! (See Catechism 1438; Canon 1250).
Some Catholic individuals, families, and groups continue to abstain from meat on Fridays in solidarity with the suffering Lord. What about the rest of us?
Many of us got serious about fasting and self-denial during Lent. On Ash Wednesday, we stepped away from television, desserts, caffeine, wine, a few minutes of extra sleep. The Bible calls us to continue fasting and self-denial. The Church makes this call specific and concrete by declaring that all Catholics in good health should practice some form of fasting on Fridays, all Fridays. The only exception is when a special Solemnity like Christmas, Epiphany or the Annunciation occurs on a Friday.
Fasting on Fridays is a part of our conversion, of our turning to God. When we deny ourselves a legitimate pleasure as a gift to God and a sharing in the sufferings of Christ, then we take another step closer to the wonderful relationship of faith and grace that God offers us.
If this act of self-denial enables us to make time, effort or money available to help those in need, then we are twice-blessed and move even further along the path to holiness, because we are serving Christ in our needy brothers.
And, if we also carve out time for an extra moment of spirituality & prayer, Bible reading, Adoration - we have adorned our Friday with the practice of all three paths to conversion.
It's May: Lent is gone, summer is coming, and there is much to do. Don't shelve your faith until September, Christmas or Lent. Practice an act of self-denial each Friday and open your heart wider to the graces and blessings that God has prepared for those who love him (I Corinthians 2:9).