Lent is a religious custom in which many practitioners fast and abstain from certain foods; specifically meat. They do so on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and every Friday within the Lent period. The traditional substitution for those days has become the fish. In this part, I will address the subject of red meat, fish, and the correlation of blood with life and Jesus.
Although, there seem to be no restrictions pertaining to plants and trees in the Bible. There exist biblical restrictions regarding the eating of certain animals. The core of the food restrictions includes animals with hooves, water animals, birds, certain insects, and “creeping things” (Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14:3-21). However, some restrictions were later waived, but with their own restrictions (Mark 7:18-19; Acts 10:9-15; 15:19-20).
Contrary to the practice of Lent, red meat was often used on special occasions, including religious holidays (Genesis 18:4-9 and Mathew 22:2-4). In addition, Jesus was a practitioner of Passover and ate red meat from a lamb that was prepared in the Biblical manner (Luke 2:41; 22:7-13).
The Biblical restriction of red meat was primarily due to its ties with blood, not the body of the animal. The blood within an animal is viewed as a spiritual symbol of its life sustenance and should not be consumed (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 7:26; 17:11-14; Deuteronomy 12:20-25; Acts 15:28-29).
For many years, many practitioners of the Catholic Church have used fish as a substitute for read meat; they have called it a form of fasting. However, this may not be called fasting, it is a simply case of substituting one food for another. Furthermore, the practitioner is not abstaining from anything either, at least in the manner that will draw them closer to God; especially if they are not incorporating the practice of prayer along with their fasting.
It is believed, yet not absolutely confirmed, that the practice of eating fish instead of meat was adopted from Jesus feeding multitudes of people both bread and fish (Mathew 14: 17-21; 15: 34-38; Mark 6: 38-44; Luke 9:13-17; John 6:8-13). Another prime example derives from John 21: 7-13; when Jesus had both bread and fish ready for His disciples after they landed on shore with a great catch of fish. However, there is no Biblical ordinance or mandate, in which fish is to be used as a prime substitute for eating red meat, nor for a partial fast; this is a custom of men, not God.
The doctrine of the Catholic Church pairs the red meat with that of the body-sacrifice of Jesus in order to show reverence to It. However, Jesus already set a precedence for such reverence in what is commonly known as the “Lord’s Supper”. It is here where Jesus associates Bread with His body and Vine with His blood (Matthew 26:26-30; Mark 14:22-26; Luke 22:17-20). It is important to partake of the Lord's Supper with reverence and follow the guidelines presented by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 11:23-26;27-32).
Blood and Jesus
In brief, Jesus has already fulfilled all “blood” related matters once and for all. He did so as the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29 and 1 Peter 1:18-19) and the “Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). Believers in Jesus are now redeemed from sin by His blood (Romans 3:21-26; Hebrews 9:11-13; Ephesians 1:7-8).
In closing, practitioners of Lent may try to abstain from consuming red meat to show reverence to the body sacrifice of Jesus. Yet, thanks to Jesus, “The Lamb of God”, all matters of blood have been addressed once and for all. This means we can eat to our liking within the bounds found in the Bible; especially if it is blessed by Him. Amen
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R. A. Gómez