Back on February 21st, I posted about the mammoth “Jesus Saves” billboard (photo left) that sat along Route 490, the busiest interstate highway in Greater Rochester, New York. See the post here.
While I was driving to work two weeks ago, I noticed that the billboard had been changed. What new advertisement had gone up in place of “Jesus Saves”? I’ll give you a clue: Rochester has a large Catholic population and Lent began last week. That’s right, a new billboard went up advertising local fast-food restaurant chain, Bill Grays, and its self-proclaimed “Rochester’s Best Fish Fry” (photo right).
Fish fries on Fridays are hugely popular here in Rochester because of the large Catholic population. Prior to 1966, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays throughout the entire year under threat of soul-damning mortal sin. But after 1966, the obligatory abstention was lifted by the U.S. Catholic bishops EXCEPT for Fridays during Lent. For more historical background, see my post on the subject here.
Isn’t it quite ironic that a billboard proclaiming that “Jesus Saves” with a reference to John 3:16 is followed by an advertisement seeking to profit off of Catholic legalism? It reminds me of how the simple Gospel of the early church was gradually institutionalized into sacramental ritualism and legalism.
Postscript: I had taken the photo of the “Jesus Saves” billboard one-handed with my iPhone through the windshield as I was driving my car at 60 mph. Very dumb. For the photo of the Bill Gray’s fish fry billboard, I exited the expressway, drove through the city neighborhood to as close to the billboard as possible, parked the car and took the photo. Much safer that way and much better quality.