Lent is a time to grow closer to God through three practices; prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It hopefully reawakens our faith and draws us to fulfill our call discipleship through each one of the three parts of Lent.
So, why does every Friday of Lent require us to give up meat? Lent is a time of simplicity, one where we try to follow in Jesus’s footsteps when he went out and fasted for 40 days. We are called to give up meat as a small token of our solidarity. More important than just having an association with celebrations, we celebrate Jesus through abstaining from meat.
During Lent, we remember the time that Jesus spent in the desert, being tempted by the devil. He was temped in three ways, the first temptation dealing with food. Satan tells Jesus to turn stones to bread and Jesus refused. Creating food would be no problem for Jesus, he fed many people by multiplying bread and fish before. Also, nothing is wrong with eating when you are hungry, it is what makes us live and function. So, in this case, why did Jesus refuse? One interpretation is that Jesus was on a mission. He went out seeking to fast for 40 days to focus on God. He followed along a path, a way that was known to many at that time to draw yourself in a closer relationship with God. Falling into the temptation would have been fulfilling his material need without fulfilling his mission that he made to grow with the Father (Matthew 4:1-11).
On Fridays during the Lenten season, I feel uncomfortable during the day. I feel hangry and am I find it more difficult to find non-meat food, not that it is hard but I just have to remember and find different foods than I usually eat. When I have Lenten promises built around fasting, the whole season feels long, like I am missing a part of routine. I believe that is what Lent is about that. That uncomfortable feeling, that longing for what you gave up. Lent is a way to imitate the walk Jesus had and to grow in our relationship with God. It is also time to remember who our Lord is, and that He makes the things of this world to sustain us, and we shouldn’t treasure them more than our God.
Each year we set out with the three practices: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Fasting is hard, but it is a way to turn our focus to God. In a sense, every Friday that we fast and abstain from meat, we recognize our hunger of this world but seek God more. When we deny eating more than our portion, we are recognizing our needs of ourselves but completing our mission for God to grow closer to him, by denying the tempter. We truly look to complete our mission to be in this world, but not of this world. (John 17:16)
Side Note: We are not called to give up fish throughout the season because they were readily available in that day and were a more common meal, one that didn’t have celebratory connection. Also, the Latin word for meat in the early church documents is ‘caro’, which is understood as red meat.
References and Good Websites to look at: