Friday Penance

The Lord Jesus died for us on Friday, and He arose from the dead on Sunday. It happened nearly two millennia ago. But the significance of these events does not fade. We want to keep them in mind.

The death and resurrection of Christ took place in the springtime, at Passover, at the first full moon after the vernal equinox. So we keep Holy Week and Easter every year, to make sure the events of salvation stay fresh in our minds, at the time of year when they originally happened.

But, obviously, commemorating our salvation once a year is not often enough.

We need to commemorate it at least once a week.

So every Sunday we remember the resurrection of Christ in church. We keep the Sabbath by remembering the resurrection of Christ.

Every Friday, we commemorate the Passion of Christ. As the Lord Jesus tells us in today’s gospel reading:

The days will come when the Bridegroom is taken away from the wedding guests. They will fast in those days.

He was taken away from us on a Friday; He returned to us on a Sunday. So, on Friday, we fast; we do penance; we keep the Passion of Christ in mind.

The traditional way to do this is to abstain from eating meat on Fridays. A generation ago, the shepherds of the Church decided to leave it up to us individually to decide what we would do to commemorate the Passion of Christ on the Fridays of the year outside of Lent.

Abstaining from meat still makes for a good Friday commemoration of the Passion. We can abstain from meat every Friday, just like we all do together during Lent.

Also, there are other options. Coming to Mass, visiting the Blessed Sacrament, saying the Rosary, making the Stations of the Cross, sacrificing some time for the good of others, visiting the sick, abstaining for some food or drink we like—all these make for a good Friday commemoration of the Passion, too.

Now, outside of Lent, the choice of how to remember Christ’s death on Friday is ours. But God forbid that we let a Friday pass without giving a thought to what our Lord did for us.

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