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Entering the Desert for Forty Days!

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Entering the Desert for Forty Days!

Entering the desert for 40 days!

Many numbers in broad-spectrum have a representative meaning in the Bible. The number 40 is chiefly interesting and united to the realization of God’s promises but not all of them are positive. However, it is frequently associated with the flash of judgment, testing, trials, and triumphs. Through desert experiences such as life’s toils and difficulties, the emptiness we feel in life or weakness in own character, or misusing power and authority for own glory, compromising truth for money, for popularity, for fame, for ease, etc. lasting 40 days or years, we endure to become more spiritually conscious of our need for God during these desert experiences.

The number ‘40’ in the Holy Bible is fascinating as it is mentioned 149 times depending on the translation. For instance, once Noah’s ark was completed, God flooded the earth for 40 days and nights. The Israelites wandered in the Desert as God made them journey in the wilderness and live on manna, for 40 years. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights on two separate events, receiving God’s commandments. The prophet Ezekiel was enlightened by God to lie on his left side for 390 days and on his right side for 40 days to bear the iniquities of Israel and Judah. Goliath teased and insulted Israel for 40 days. The three renowned and famous Jewish kings, Saul, David and Solomon each ruled for 40 years. This time period of 40 years also contains a warning: 20 years of their rule was marked by success and 20 years by devastation. God gave Nineveh 40 days to repent. Elijah used to have only one meal that gave him strength for 40 days. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights before his public ministry and also remained on earth 40 days after the resurrection.

A woman who is pregnant takes forty weeks before she gives birth to a child, similarly, Holy Mother the Church offers the period of 40 days between Lent and Easter to be born again in Christ’s thoughts, words and deeds through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is a time in preparation for Easter to bear witness after the “example” of Jesus who spent 40 days in the desert fasting and enduring temptation. It is also an occasion of godliness, when Christians remember the passion and death of Christ and explore their own continuing process of sanctification and becoming more Christ-like since God wants to use a period of 40 days and nights to learn fundamental lessons, end all negative practices and adopt a new way of walking closer with Him.

Once a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” And Jesus answered, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” and for that reason, “you must be born again.” 

Meditate on the Way of the Cross:

Behold, our Divine Model Jesus Christ crucified on Mount Calvary. Let this example be ever present to us that we may live crucified with Christ and be an “alter Christus” (another Christ) in virtue and in the apostolate. In order to become another Christ in virtue and in the apostolate we must read and reflect the Scriptures and understand the meaning of the Cross especially during the way of the cross conducted on Wednesdays and Fridays in our parishes. Christ, as the Prophets said, suffered voluntarily, willingly, patiently, innocently, suffered without consolation and suffered out of pure love of souls. He was not bound by force or necessity but offered himself because of His own free will. He offered his cheek and body to the strikers and had not turned away. He allowed them to do whatever they wanted to do. And while He was dying on the cross amid the most terrible torments, He implored the Father for those who tormented and crucified Him and for all sinners: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Necessity of Confession:

Sin is an obstacle to eternal happiness and is an insult to god. It is the eating of the forbidden fruit which causes us to be excluded from Paradise and condemned to punishment and eternal death. It is choosing the satisfaction of our passions in preference to the will of God. It is abandoning God and going over to his enemies. It deprives us of grace and the friendship of God and brings reprobation and damnation. Therefore, Lent is a grace-filled time. There are two roads that lead to heaven: the one is that of innocence, the other that of repentance. If you have lost your innocence, there is no other way left but that of repentance through the Sacrament of Confession. Either repent or burn. We must keep the divine command: ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ Luke 17:14. Sacramental confession is the means instituted by Christ the Lord in the New Law for the remission of sin. Only the priest is the physician with a divine diploma who can cure your soul. If you go to anyone else, even an angel, you are wasting time and effort for you will remain in your infirmity. If a person refuses to reveal his/her sickness to the physician sent by God, he can never be cured. Person will be the voluntary cause of his/her own death.

Participate in the Holy Eucharist:

The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church’s life. In the Eucharist Christ Himself is present to His people in the paschal mystery. Rich in symbolism and richer in reality; a Sacrament of love, a sign of unity, a bond of charity, a paschal banquet in which Christ is received, the mind is filled with grace and a pledge of future glory is given to us. The Eucharist as received sacramentally is called ‘Holy Communion.’ The name is appropriate, since it indicates the sharing of a gift God gives to all that is coming into close union with Christ, and with one’s brothers and sisters in Him. Therefore, the faithful too, by virtue of their royal priesthood participate actively in this necessity of ‘Holy Communion’ with Jesus especially during these 40 days to deepen his friendship so as to learn how to weigh Catholic priorities correctly.

Learn to love by loving:

Love is the greatest gift that God himself gives to the soul sincerely seeking Him. The Holy Spirit, who is the eternal and uncreated Love, will teach you all the truth of love. He will teach you the lessons of love. Thus, Saint Francis de Sales once wrote, ‘we learn to love by loving’ in order to build a just and good society. Human beings are social beings and community with others itself is a basic element in well being and fulfillment as a person. Each one has a duty to share in the task of shaping and conserving a just and humane social order as our Lord Jesus prayed to the Father in heaven, ‘that all may be one as We are one.’ Therefore, we need to redirect our thoughts and attitudes toward peace and it can only be the fruit of justice and the fruit of love. What causes wars, and what causes fighting among you? Is it not your passions (egotistic passions: human jealousy, distrust, pride) that are at war in your members? James 4:1. To have peace, we need most of all a profound change of heart during this period of 40days urging us to let go of the shortcuts of straightforward compromises, of distrust, of sin and renounce everything that fills ourselves within so many ways, without ever satisfying our hearts.  

+ In Christ, 

Father Henry Peter MSFS,

Sacred Heart Church,

Bhusawal, Maharashtra, India.



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