Katie Faley — Giving up is a good thing; our salvation came from a sacrifice
Cause of Our Joy / Katie Faley
Fridays in Lent can be difficult. There are several other days during the year that are not Lenten Fridays when I don’t eat meat — purely on accident. But when I have to purposefully choose to not eat meat? Forget it. The world comes crashing down.
I also happen to be one of those people who does not enjoy seafood. In my petty, human weakness, I can sometimes look at those people who get the “luxury” of eating and enjoying fish on Fridays during Lent and get jealous. “Not fair,” I think, as I recycle through the same old meatless meals that I always choose: pizza, pancakes, and pasta.
On any other night, pizza, pancakes, and pasta would make a delightful, if unhealthy, menu, but it becomes a challenge when I know that those are my only options. It’s one thing to make a sacrifice that I have chosen, but something about not having the option to choose my sacrifice really makes the hurdle that much higher to overcome.
My best friend recently summed it up when she said to me, “The struggle of not eating meat on Fridays never gets old.”
She was right. It has not gotten any easier to give up meat on Fridays. Every year, every Lenten week, the sacrifice feels just as great as it was before.
FASTING IS A WAY OF PRAYING
Some of my friends who are not Catholic or not practicing think of the Friday fast from meat as a rule imposed on us slaves to the rigid rules of a controlling church. Fasting can often be misinterpreted as being a set of rules and restrictions in place to make our lives miserable.
I do feel miserable sometimes when I wake up on Fridays during Lent already dreaming about the next day when I don’t have to make that huge, unfathomable sacrifice of not eating meat for one day.
If abstaining from meat will help me to understand the reality of God’s love for me, I guess abstaining from meat once a week is OK. Even if I don’t like fish.
But, like with all things of the church, fasting isn’t about the “can’ts” and the “shouldn’ts.” Fasting is not a restriction on our joy. Fasting is a way of praying and uniting ourselves closer to Jesus during the time leading up to the celebration of his death and resurrection (and during every time of year and liturgical season).
When we fast, we are using our mind, body, and spirit as a prayer. We are entering into the mystery and the motions of the death and resurrection of Jesus. So, when I wake up on Friday mornings already thinking about the joy of the Saturday following, I am putting into action my belief and the foundational belief of the Catholic Church in the paschal mystery of the darkness of the death of Jesus and the light of his resurrection that follows.
ENTERING INTO JESUS’ SACRIFICE
The sacrifices we make are all just a small taste of the sacrifice that Jesus made for each of us. It’s a difficult reminder. I likely can be found grumbling on Fridays, but our sacrifices are about entering into Jesus’ sacrifice he made for us on the cross, even if in just a small way. In that same way, we are uniting our suffering with the suffering of others.
So, fasting should hurt. It should be uncomfortable. I should look forward to the day after fasting, because that is true of the reality of the faith. It is not a rule that is some sort of litmus test for how good or bad of a Catholic I am. It is meant to be a physical pursuit of the goodness and light of Jesus’ Resurrection. It challenges us to transform those areas of human weakness for the glory of God.
Jesus did have the option to make the sacrifice of the cross. He knew the suffering that went along with death on a cross. And he still chose that death and suffering as a sacrifice for us and our freedom. Jesus’ rising from the dead and our salvation came out of a sacrifice, so that right there is enough to convince me that good things come out of making sacrifices.
And if abstaining from meat will help me to understand the reality of God’s love for me, I guess abstaining from meat once a week is OK. Even if I don’t like fish.
KATIE FALEY is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and is digital marketing coordinator for the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at email@example.com.