Have you ever wondered? Why do Catholics fast on Good Friday? Moreover, why is it traditional to fast on the Fridays of Lent?
In the Gospel for Mass today [Matthew 9:14-15] we hear:
The disciples of John approached Jesus and said,
“Why do we and the Pharisees fast much,
but your disciples do not fast?”
Jesus answered them, “Can the wedding guests mourn
as long as the bridegroom is with them?
The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them,
and then they will fast.”
For such a short Gospel it says so much – most importantly we hear what Christ says of Himself. “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Did you catch that? Jesus refers to Himself as the bridegroom, which has to do with His being Messiah – for more on that, consider reading this brief article from Dr. Brant Pitre linked below.
What strikes me on a Friday in Lent, however, is how this Gospel points out what a mysterious time we are in… Lent. This is a season in which Jesus, the Bridegroom, is both present and away from us. He is present in the Sacraments, the Baptized, the Clergy, the Scriptures… and yet we await His return in glory. He is here, but we await His return. So we fast as we await His coming in glory, but at the same time we feast with Christ who abides with us.
In today’s Mass we pray:
Show gracious favor, O Lord, we pray, to the works of penance we have begun, that we may have strength to accomplish with sincerity the bodily observances we undertake. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
The fasting that ought to move us to have “a heart contrite and humbled” [Ps 51], and compassion for the poor, also opens the ears of hearts to hear the Lord of Glory say, “Here I am!” [Is 58].
As we prepare for the return of Christ in glory, may we see and adore Him countless times a day – in the Sacraments, in the Scripture, and in brothers and sisters.
~ Fr. Joe Reed is the Associate Pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral and Director of Vocations, Diocese of Knoxville.