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.

The Religion of Jesus

Three hundred eighteen years ago tomorrow, a French Visitation nun named Margaret Mary Alacoque drew her last breath in the world. She had lived a painful and difficult life. But the Lord had given her a special gift: He appeared to her and showed her His Sacred Heart.

The Heart of Christ had never before been visible to the human eye. Even when He walked on the earth, the Lord’s human heart could not be seen. It was pierced by the soldier’s lance when He hung on the Cross. When He came back to life, His heart began to beat again in His breast. Now the Sacred Heart of Christ is in heaven, along with the rest of His glorified body. His heart is the fitting symbol of His infinite love, the divine love united with the love of a man.

When the Lord appeared to her, St. Margaret Mary saw how the Heart of Christ burns with love for the heavenly Father and for His children on earth. She wrote: “The Sacred Heart is an inexhaustible fountain, and its sole desire is to pour itself out into the hearts of the humble. The divine heart is an abyss of all blessings.”

The revelations which St. Margaret Mary received were a gift for the whole Church of God. The vision of the Sacred Heart is a reminder of the fundamental truths of the Christian religion. Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical about the revelations given to St. Margaret Mary. He wrote:

“Their significance is that Christ–showing His Sacred Heart–willed in a special way to call the minds of men to the contemplation and veneration of God’s most merciful love for the human race. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is so important that it may be considered the perfect profession of the Christian religion, for this is the religion of Jesus, and no man can come to the heart of God except through the heart of Christ.”

Pope Benedict XVI also wrote a letter two years ago about the Sacred Heart.