The young child of a friend of mine had his birthday on Ash Wednesday. Knowing what it’s like to have a birthday that has potential to fall on the first day of Lent, I asked whether the celebratory meal would be “meat-free”, given it is a “Day of Fast and Abstinence”. The jovial response given was along the lines of “great! Seafood!”
While my friend joked about our Church’s traditional fasting being cause for a potential feast on ocean delicacies, it is sad to see that for some people, abstaining from meat can bring about a greater, more lavish feast than would otherwise be served up with meat.
Many people would remember a time when Lent brought about much stricter regulations about fasting and abstaining from meat. Nowadays we are called to enter into penitential practices that have a lasting and profound personal effect.
Whatever we choose to abstain from during Lent, and when we abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, our focus needs to be on the purpose of fasting and abstinence. These practices should allow us to remove from our lives that which distracts us from being one with God. The point, therefore is not to abstain from meat and eat seafood. The point is to eat whatever we eat simply and modestly. It is just as inappropriate today to sit down to the seafood banquet at the local restaurant on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday as it was to “kill the fatted calf” in the earlier years of the Church. We need to focus on why we abstain, rather than what we abstain from, or what takes its place.
My apologies to anyone I’ve upset who had crab and lobster planned for Good Friday dinner!