Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why do Catholics not eat meat and fast on Friday’s in Lent?

Catholics are called to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent and Ash Wednesday. We are also called to fast (eat only 1 meal or two small meals in one day) on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. In addition the custom is to pick something in our own lives to “give up” for the 40 days of Lent. Today I want to talk about why we do.

The theories on why Catholics don’t eat meat (but can eat fish) vary from the spiritual to the conspiracy. People say some outlandish things on this topic! Regardless of the history of these Lenten traditions, the purpose is consistent. Jesus commands each of us to deny ourselves, take up or cross, and follow him (Mk 8:34). By denying ourselves some of the pleasures of this world we do as Jesus commands; even if it’s in a small and temporary way.

A person may ask how Lenten sacrifice helps a Catholic; and that’s a great question. Many Catholics simply go through the motions of giving up something for Lent because they were raised that way and they’ll feel guilty if they don’t. I’m sorry, but this attitude will only push a person farther from the cross, not closer to it. If you asked me, sacrifice without purpose is meaningless. So how do you take your Lenten sacrifice and put it to good use?

First, offer your sacrifice for something specific. Paul gives us a great example of this in Colossians 1:24. Personally I offer my sacrifices so that I may grow in intimacy with my Lord, for the souls in purgatory, and for the conversion of all people to Jesus’ Church. Think about what is meaningful to you, what are your passions? Offer your sacrifice for that.

Second, DO something! When you feel an urge for a steak on Ash Wednesday say some prayers for your intention. If you gave up TV, use the time for something to further your intention. What good does it do to give up TV and sit on the Internet all evening? If you give up something that costs money, save the money you would have spent and donate it to a cause that furthers your intention. The opportunities are limitless but the point is to DO something. Turn your sacrifice into action; don’t let it be meaningless!

I encourage you to think this Lenten season about your own reasons for abstaining from meat, or any form of abstinence or fasting that you may do. Are you doing these things because you were raised that way? Or because you think you’re supposed to? Or do you make sacrifices to grow in holiness? Do you work to turn your sacrifice into action? Or do you do them because you’ll feel guilty if you don’t?

Lenten sacrifice can be a great way to dive into holiness or it can be 6 weeks of pointless torment. The choice is yours.

18 comments:

justjeb said...

I thin lent is against what the bible says. Because the bible tells us to fast in secret. If you tell everyone you are fasting you defeat the purpose and receive your reward on earth already. It doesn't make you holy because you should be giving up things every day of your life. Like your sinful passions, doubt, and unblief.


Matthew 6

1"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

and continues in verse 16 about fasting

16"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

I have nothing against fasting it is fine but with the wrong motives your just trying to make yourself look like a "good" person.

I know I ton of Catholics and everything they do is to be a "good" person or be more Holy

the bible says:

Romans 3

9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better[b]? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written:
"There is no one righteous, not even one;
11there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
12All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one."[c]
13"Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit."[d]
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."[e]
14"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."[f]
15"Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16ruin and misery mark their ways,
17and the way of peace they do not know."[g]
18"There is no fear of God before their eyes."[h]
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
Righteousness Through Faith
21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. 29Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, 30since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

the concept of lent is good the practice is againd the bible. Your responsabilty is to more like christ every day not giving up chocolate for a month.

Catholic Connection Team said...

Hi, justjeb,

Thanks for posting your concerns here on our blog.

I would like to ask; have you ever prayed in front of another person? Do you pray at church? If you do then you are violating Jesus command! He clearly says to pray in your home behind locked doors. I think it’s fair to ask why can’t Catholics fast in public if you can pray in public? Isn’t this a bit hypocritical?

In any event, in Mt 6:16 Jesus condemns prideful motives behind fasting and prayer. This is the message. Do you pray and fast so people will be impressed at how “holy” you are? If you do then you are only praying and fasting for your own pride; and your pride has been rewarded by their praise, but God is not impressed.

Jesus hardly condemns public prayer and fasting if they’re done for the right reasons. Neither did the apostles in Acts. Neither did the early Church. Praying and fasting in public is a central part of Christianity.

So you keep praying publicly and I’ll keep fasting publicly and let’s pray for each other that our motives are humility and sincerity instead of pride.

Sincerely,

Catholic Connection Team

Anonymous said...

So as a catholic I don't need to fast on every friday of lent, just on good friday and ash wednesday??

Catholic Connection Team said...

Great question, Anon,

That is correct but let's make sure we have our terms right. Fast means 1 large meal and 2 small meals and no snacks. Fasting has nothing to do with eating meat.

We abstian from meat Ash Wednesday, all Fridays during Lent, and Good Friday.

So some days we fast AND abstain from meat (Ash Wednesday and Good Friday) and other days we simply abstain from meat (all Fridays in Lent).

Does this make more sense?

Catholic Connection Team

Anonymous said...

Perfect, you answered my question. Thak you very much!

Catholic Connection Team said...

You are very welcome and are always welcome on our blog. Have a wonderful Lenten season!

Catholic Connection Team

Anonymous said...

I'm Catholic and don't eat fish. Is shrimp allowed? It technically is not a fish.

Catholic Connection Team said...

Hi, Anon,

Thanks for posting your question here and for reading the blog!

All "seafood" is allowed and is not considered meat. "Meat" includes beef, pork, chicken, turkey, etc.

Of course we are not required to eat fish either. Vegetarian dishes are perfectly acceptable.

Catholic Connection Team

Anonymous said...

I can't say enough how devoted you Catholics are to the things your church tells you to do. I have had my relationship with my girlfriend suffer because of the things that she has to do because of her church. I have spent a lot of time around such repetitious acts and it causes my stomach to turn. Fasting from meat or whatever you fast on is a unnecessary "good act" that will not save you. Believing in Christ and acknowledging that his death freed us from the old system of dealing with sin and saved all of us who believe in him. Belief in Jesus Christ is eating his flesh and drinking his blood as described in John. I have been eating his flesh and drinking his blood for some time now and the eating and drinking is good. Doing the same thing over and over again is like a hamster running in his wheel in his cage, it will get you nowhere. It would be the best move you make to get away from the hierarchy or who's a pope a cardinal and so on that tells you what you can or can't do and go to a system that says this is what we know from the Bible and its up to you to make the right decisions. Fast or don't fast eat his flesh and drink his blood as I said earlier and live your life. Going through the motions and saying the same things over and over again whether you are very serious about it or not, may be a good act, but the real act is believing in him, for Jesus and yourself.

Anonymous said...

I have a question! I am a 38 year old, born and raised Catholic. Nowhere can I find the answer to my question....Since Lent is over at Sundown on Holy Thursday, why can we not eat meat on Good Friday? I completely, 100% understand and support fasting on Good Friday and having 1 meal that day, but since Lent is over, why does it matter what the one meal consists of? Just curious....I have 3 daughters in Catholic school....I would love to have an answer for them?!!

Catholic Connection Team said...

Hi, Annon,

You’re right that Good Friday is not a part of Lent, Lent ends Holy Thursday night with the Mass. However, Good Friday is THE reason we abstain from meat in the first place. Good Friday is when we remember the crucifixion and death of Christ.

It’s not less penitential than Lent; it’s more. We abstain from flesh because the flesh of our Lord was killed. We abstain from meat because, in those times, eating non-fish meat was a sign of feasting and celebration; Good Friday is no time for feasting but for fasting.

I hope this helps answer your question. God bless you as you raise your daughters!

Catholic Connection Team

Anonymous said...

Hi team,just read John 6.Fascinating. Never heard it put that way ,that they left Jesus because they thought they had to eat Him. I understand how that corresponds to transubstatiation. If I may share however, a different insight to John 6. See if it be true. It has to do with believing, and perhaps that it is not "simple", as you say. Believing is more miraculous than what it is to "eat" Him. Indeed, Peter says "we will not leave you," not because we will eat you, but because we believe that "you are the Christ". Jesus uses the word "believe" seven times. Eating is mentioned 9 times to show belief from manna to the bread of life,to Himself three times. Six of the nine is obviously symbolic (bread of life).I would say the final three (of eating Jesus )is also symbolic .Jesus says if you BELIEVE you shall not thirst or hunger....... Jesus was a master at getting to the nitty gritty, not will you eat me but do you really believe. He works His way from His miracle of feeding thousands ,to meat unto everlasting life (vs. 27),to Moses and manna, and the bread of life, to "I am the bread of life"(41), and finally "you must eat me". Jesus knew they would see it falsley as eating His flesh, cannibalim-so unkosher. He wanted them to depart because of that, for they did not BELIEVE.("For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that belived not"-vs.64. He uses the supposed "cannibalism" to ferrit out nonbelievers ,leaving only the faithful who understand it is not cannibalism, but a symbol of being one with His spirit( the flesh is NOTHING,but the spirit quickeneth-vs. 63).I do not see Him laying ground work for doctrinal dispute as to what is bread and wine and remembrance. For eating bread or flesh is profitless, unless it represents,or is symbolic of receiving His spirit with ours. Flesh only begets flesh, but spirit spirit. Again, the "eating me" was directed to show unbelief, not to show believers what they must do (eat Him),but what they must believe ,"He is the Christ". Alleluia

Dan said...

Wait, so Jesus purposely confused the crowd into thinking he meant they had to literally eat his flesh to “ferret out” those who didn’t believe in him? What Jesus do you believe in; Truth incarnate or a misleading, conniving character who will say one thing but mean another? Jesus says the truth.

The common problem of reading John 6 is assuming there is only one theme; believing in Jesus for salvation. There are actually three themes; that Jesus is the bread of life, that we must eat this bread, and that the Spirit is required for belief in these things.

In verses 35-50 Jesus talks about how he is the bread of life that came down from heaven. This is significant because that means he is sent by God. Jesus isn’t just a man; but a God-man. If you don’t believe this then you can’t have eternal life.

Now that he’s established that he is the Bread of Heaven, in verses 51-58 Jesus talks about what the bread actually is and what we should do about it. In verse 51 he says “the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” the bread is HIS FLESH. This is very graphic; it implies his concrete self and not his spiritual soul or divine nature.

The Jews take him literally and argue about how he can feed them his flesh. In verses 53 he says “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you”. Why not just say “unless you believe in me…”? He said that before, why not say it again? The answer is we are on a new topic; how to receive this bread. It must be eaten; and Jesus means this literally.

Bear in mind that a figurative sense of “eats” or “drinks my blood” doesn’t translate to “believes” as some would like. These sayings translate to “destroy” “kill”, or “conquer”. The phrase “eat your flesh” or “drink your blood” would have been taken as a grotesque form of trash talk if said figuratively. So, if he was being symbolic Jesus would have been taken to say “unless you destroy me you will have no life within you”. That’s not a meaning anyone today can stomach!

In verse 54 he says “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day“. Here the Greek for “eats” is changed. It’s not the same word as in verse 53 and previous. It now means “as an animal eats” or “gnaw”. Figurative? No.

In verse 55 he says “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” Jesus is going out of his way to be as literal as possible. You may say he’s purposely doing this to “ferret out” those who don’t believe in him but if that’s the case then HE IS LYING! That’s impossible!

Verse 63 captures the third theme of the Spirit’s necessarily in accepting the previous two themes. Jesus says “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail”. In their haste to use this as a proof-text against the Eucharist, many overlook that Jesus isn’t talking about HIS flesh but THE flesh. We can only accept that Jesus is the Bread of Life and that we must eat this bread (his flesh) through the gift of the Spirit not by natural reason (the flesh).

Jesus asks the Twelve if they will also leave (vs 67)

Peter says “to whom shall we go, you have the words of everlasting life?” (vs 68). Peter did NOT say “We understand you symbolically while those fools understood you literally”. “To whom shall we go” isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement. The Spirit has led them to believe in Jesus and now they accept that he will make good on his promises and provide a way to eat his flesh and drink his blood.

Anon, it sounds to me like you’re one of the disciples in Jn 6:60 who believed Jesus was the Bread of Life but of the Eucharist say “this is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” By shying away from the hard reality of Jesus’ words, you walk away from him as so many did in verse 66.

dave ruiz said...

Dan, then why did Jesus speak in parables ? Did he not say "otherwise lest they be saved". Why did He say "cast not your pearls before swine" ? Why did Joseph (Genesis) not reveal himself right away to his brothers ? Are you saying Jesus or Joseph was conniving or misleading here ? Was Jesus leading on the rich young ruler on with His questions when He knew His heart all along ? To whom does he reveal truth to ? Yet He is not secret about it for "behold, wisdom cries out from the rooftops" Is God cruel and conniving by hiding precious gold from us, forcing us to search and dig laboriously, yet a child can enter in to His riches ? How is it that He can speak and man can not hear ? How is it that He makes but we can not see ? Did He not make our eyes and our ears ? ....to be cont.-only read your 1st paragraph.

dave ruiz said...

Dan, did the people walk away because they did not want to eat Him or because they did not believe, and believe what ? This is not a theme on Eucharistic transubstantiation.You miss a fourth theme and totally neglect Jesus chiding the disciples and saying what if you see the son of man ascend to heaven ? What does that mean to you ? You totally miss the other point, what must happen to Jesus for us to "eat him" ? He must be crucified right ? Were their not zionists in the mix ? Does he not mention Judas(a zionist) as devil at the end of all this ? Did not many think Christ was ushering in His kingdom TO RULE AND REIGN ? "Oops, sorry, I must first be crucified like a common criminal, do you still want to follow me ? Will you still follow me if I do not feed your belly ?" Is not this why in vs.62 he says to his disciples, "Does this offend you ? What if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before ? " This to me is the MAJOR theme of all of this. What was the mission for the Messiah ? I assure you with scripture that they did not understand His death, resurrection and ascension AND His return. This misunderstanding is what helped put Him on the cross, or so I was taught as a catholic. They did not understand that He was the sacrificial Lamb. Did not Peter struggle with this truth to the end, striking off the servants ear with a sword before Jesus was arrested ?......... I will feed you but it ain't your belly ,it is spiritual food. You literalize eating His flesh, yet do you literally live by His blood ? Do you literally have your fleshly body receive sustenance by His body ? Do you literally live forever if you eat His body ? It seems to me Eucharistic Christians have been dying for two thousand years . Are you not picking what is literal and what is spiritual or symbolic yourself ? Jesus says you must live by this bread and you will live forever if you eat Him. So you believe you literally eat Him, but you spiritually live by Him and spiritually live forever..... I agree with you that the apostles trusted in Christ and believed in HIM ,and that indeed the eating of His flesh would be cleared up later. You are right, Peter did not say, "we know it is symbolic and those fools took it literally'. But he also did not say "we know it is literal and those fools do not believe it " So if people put emphasis on faith here ,they are taking Peter's lead.Please do not say they understood this as literal ,for they did not even understand His upcoming death. They knew one thing, "Thou art the Messiah"........Just what is the Eucharist is not what separates one from the "unbelievers" in Ch. 6 who walked away .I do believe like Peter, He is the Messiah, thanks to the Father (vs 65) who drew me to Him.I do partake of his bodily sacrifice, in REMEMBRANCE, of the new covenant, sealed with His Blood. His literal bodily death and resurrection have revived my spirit literally and sustained it literally and I will spiritually live forever literally .

dave ruiz said...

Dan, I suppose you are right and praying in church can also be "carnal" or showy. However, it diifers a little in that prayer in church is more public to get all involved and say the "amen". Fasting is a personal thing more often than not, or at least to be effective it can be done secretly. Prayer can be "secret" but as effective as when "two or more are gatherd in My name" . Fasting can be corporate (look at Nineveh), but as general thing to do to appreciate Easter or Christ in a ritualized fashion does not seem to be spirit led. Again, we pray for specific needs, and I suppose one should fast for specific needs . To be Spirit led I suppose the Spirit must first reveal the need. This would be opposed to a general need ,and at a specific time , or place , or season or moon etc. It seems a bit dictatorial to to the moving of the Spirit. It is all very old testament ,heavy with do's and don'ts,and some trepidation of doing things just right. I just do not see the apostles or early christians doing this sort of thing. Non-participants of honoring such times and seasons have the same challenge of being led by the Spirit : to pray, fast, and reflect on what is good, and pure as Paul exhorts. Participants have the added challenge , as you partially state, not to feel satisfied with our "work", and the good feeling it brings, relative to the work Christ did for us, and the joy He freely gives. At times obedience is better than sacrifice, obedience to the new law of life by the Spirit.

Anonymous said...

I understand why Catholics can't eat meat on Fridays, but WHY Friday? Why not Wednasday or Monday or Sunday?

Anonymous said...

Did the fish merchants not approach the Pope of their time and ask that one day be set aside for people to eat only fish, as too many were eating meat alone and killing the fish business?
The Church of Rome being the Church of Rome and always on the take, set Friday aside for the eating of fish alone... but for a price of course.
Same thing with the selling of Indulgences,not only would past sins be forgiven for a price, but future sins would also be forgiven.

The Church of Rome is about as far away from Christ as it can get with its Popes, Cardinals, Arch Bishops, Bishops and so on down the line with each one jockeying for promotion.