Thank God it’s Friday—TGIF, right? The weekend is here! Of course, it’s a relative thought that does not include the weekend shift, but Friday is Friday—a day for big events to be scheduled and vacations to begin.
“Thank God it’s Friday” holds the idea of partying it up, not that good clean fun isn’t a blessing from God, but there is a part of Friday that has been lost. We forget Friday being the day that Jesus, although he was God, allowed himself to be whipped and crucified, suffering unimaginable pains in his human flesh despite having the power to have turned it all around, kicked butt and taken names. Of course, we don’t literally forget, we just don’t think about it because we have forgotten to use the lowly yet powerful comma.
Instead of “Thank God it’s Friday” it should be “Thank God, it’s Friday” — a day of meaning and sacrifice. Sacrifice you say? Yes, that’s the Catholic way, not that you can’t sacrifice and have fun at the same time. Reserving Fridays for sacrifice is a forgotten tradition that brings closeness with Christ and empowerment to our souls, so I venture to say that it rises to the level of divine.
Friday sacrifices have largely disappeared along with the long lines outside Brown’s Fish and Chips on Fridays. That was the fish restaurant in my neighborhood when I was a little girl, and we could not eat meat on Fridays.
I have a snippet of a memory of a line of people that came out of the door and snaked around the building of Brown’s Fish and Chips because it was Friday. Our family never stood in that line because my mother would have gone with grilled cheese and tomato soup over standing with her lively brood of six for an hour.
And that line to get into the restaurant is probably one of the reasons that our bishops did away with the blanket no meat on Friday penance. There were people indulging in a fine restaurant meal perhaps complete with a desert and drink, and calling it a penance. There are also people like me who choose fish and chips over a steak so I can’t even pretend a Lenten fish fry is a sacrifice. Although, one can always make it so. For instance, skipping the fries or ketchup or other parts of the meal and fasting in the first part of the day, or finding other sacrifices to make can retain the day’s spirit of sacrifice.
The point is that Fridays hold something far more important than just kicking off the weekend. It used to be that in observance of Friday as a day of abstinence, it was a sin for Catholics to eat meat. In 1966, many national bishops’ conferences — including that of the United States — allowed Catholics to replace “no meat” with another form of penance. They issued a Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence but expressed the hope that “the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.”
The current Code of Canon Law (CIC) states that, with the exception of solemnities, “All Fridays through the year and the time of Lent are penitential days and times throughout the entire Church.” (CIC 1250) Furthermore, “Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless they are solemnities.” (CIC 1251) Our bishops have declared that it is permissible to substitute some other form of penance, but we are still told to fast from “something” in remembrance of the Lord’s death on the cross.
Turning up the passion for Friday sacrifices accesses the power of God to answer prayers, and to renew our Church and family and world. As the body of Christ, we should be in union with one another and with our Church, striving to make everyone holier.
Abstaining from meat and/or using Friday as a day of fasting in union with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, brings us into closer union with him as we give up something our flesh desires in exchange for spiritual benefits. Fasting and abstinence from meat are not the same thing, but whether doing one or both, we do have an obligation to sacrifice on Fridays.
St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Catholic theologians to ever live said that we fast for three reasons. “For we fast for three purposes: (1) to restrain the desires of the flesh; (2) to raise the mind to contemplate sublime things; (3) to make satisfaction for our sins.”
St. Basil the Great said, “Fasting gives birth to prophets and strengthens the powerful; fasting makes lawgivers wise. Fasting is a good safeguard for the soul, a steadfast companion for the body, a weapon for the valiant, and a gymnasium for athletes. Fasting repels temptations, anoints unto piety; it is the comrade of watchfulness and the artificer of chastity. In war it fights bravely, in peace it teaches stillness.”
And so, let the weekend begin and let the graces won through sacrifices flow!
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