Sunday, February 17, 2008

40 Days of Lent

There is no question that ‘40’ is a very significant number in the Bible. As Catholics, we have the liturgical season of Lent for forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church’s liturgical year, reflecting and uniting ourselves each year to the mystery of Jesus in the Desert. (CCC 540)

The period of forty days or years is an important one in Scripture and in Jewish tradition. As the church fathers observed, it is most often associated with hardship, affliction, suffering, purification, fasting and punishment. Catholic author Steve Ray has recognized the following significant uses of the number 40 in Scripture below.

*The flood judgment in Noah’s day lasts 40 days (Gen 7:4).
*The fasting of Moses for 40 days on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:18; Deut 9:9).
*Elijah 40 days of fasting while running to Mount Sinai (1 Kings 19:8).
*The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the wilderness (Ex 16:35; Ps 95:10).
*Israel is in the hand of the Philistines for 40 years (Judg 13:1).
*40 days Ezekiel lies on his side to symbolize the punishment of Judah (Ezek 4:6).
*Jonah prophesies that Nineveh will be destroyed in 40 days—unless they fast and repent (Jonah 3:4).
*Punishment limited to 40 stripes —lashes (Deut 25:3; cf. 2 Cor 11:24).
*There were 40 days before purification in the Temple
*40 days for Mary’s purification (Lk 2:22-24; Lev. 12:1-8, CCC 583).
*Jesus’ temptation for 40 days and nights in the Wilderness (Mt 4:1-2).
*Jesus on earth 40 days between resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).
*We have 40 years between Christ's death and resurrection and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. (Tip to Mr. Cox)
*We have 40 days of Lent to prepare for Easter week.


Though 40 is often associated with suffering, we can also see it is as blessing for those who persevere to the end. Look at each of the examples above and think of the blessing that arrived at the end of the event. With Noah, after the flood there was new life and a rainbow as the sign of the Covenant. After Elijah's 40 days of fasting while running to Mount Sinai he met God, after the wandering in the wilderness for 40 years the Israelites entered the Promise Land, and after 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, Jesus gave us a 3 fold victory over sin. What will be at the end of your 40 days of Lent?

I hope you are all having a great Lent, and try to remember that you are not alone or the first to suffer through the number "40".

Please Visit: St. Annes Youth Ministries. Lent 2008

2 comments:

David said...

Art
Don't forget the 40 years between Christ's death and resurrection and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Arthur Jr said...

Thats right! Thank you for that. "this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" . .