Forty is a number with ancient biblical significance.
Lent is forty days long because Jesus fasted in the wilderness forty days and forty nights before embarking on His public ministry.
But Jesus did not select the length of His fast at random. Throughout the Old Testament, a stretch of forty days (or years) has always carried a deep meaning often related to punishment, penance, and/or preparation.
Here are a few examples:
During Noah’s time, God sent rain for forty days and forty nights to punish the earth with flood
In consequence of their lack of faith, the Israelites wandered in the desert forty years before reaching the Promised Land
The people of Nineveh fasted and repented to avert the wrath of God which the prophet Jonah predicted would come upon them in forty days
Both Moses and Elijah fasted forty days before or during important conversations with God
When the time came for Jesus to begin His public mission, He utilized this tradition. His mission was of an all-encompassing nature that taps into—and fulfills—all the biblical reasons for forty day events.
As the God-Man, He was embarking on His mission to be our Mediator—to converse with God on our behalf, as Moses and Elijah did in a prefigurative way.
As the one Man Who came to bear the punishment due to all men, He evokes the repentance of Nineveh that averted the punishment of God.
His time in the desert—reminiscent of the Israelites’ forty year sojourn—proffers the idea that He is deliberately taking on the punishment due to our faithlessness, which otherwise would keep us away from the Promised Land of Heaven.
The season of Lent is our great opportunity to enter into the desert with Christ. Do you have a plan for how to approach these days and gain the incredible graces they offer us?
Humility is the hallmark spiritual virtue of letting go. It’s an open-minded, openhearted, openhanded way to move through the world. To be humble is to make room for life as it comes, without the need to grasp too tightly, even (and especially) to certainty. This kind of attitude is what keeps your vision from clouding up and occluding. No one manages this perfectly, of course. That’s why life seems all too willing to deal us periodic humiliations that knock down our towers of Babel and drop us back onto the ground of our being: the truth that we are held in divine and loving hands, without being able to do anything to deserve or ruin it.
How often do we stop to take a look at the fruit of our lives? Are some rotten and some ripe? Matthew shares something new that he’s noticed in today’s gospel reading that will make you look at things a little differently.
Blessed Thomas Maria Fusco, also known as Tommaso, (1831-1891) was born to a noble and pious family in Italy, the seventh of eight children. He was orphaned at an early age and raised by his uncle, a priest, who oversaw his education. He had a deep love for the faith, especially to the Passion of Christ and Our Lady of Sorrows. He became a priest at the age of 24 and opened a school in his own home. He later became an itinerant missionary throughout southern Italy. After traveling for a number of years he opened another school, this time to train priests on how to be good confessors. He also founded the Priestly Society of the Catholic Apostolate to support the missions, which gained papal approval. During his work with the poor he discerned a call to start a new religious order of sisters, the Daughters of Charity of the Most Precious Blood, to minister to orphaned children. In addition to all of this, Fusco was also a parish priest, a confessor to a group of cloistered nuns, and a spiritual father to a lay group at the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. He died of liver disease at the age of 59. He was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 2001. His feast day is February 24.
The college-aged woman was talking so loudly that I couldn’t help hearing her at the restaurant table next to mine.
“I know I did the wrong thing, but it’s good. It showed me I’m just like everyone else at the church. I’m not perfect.”
The sin she was describing to her friend was casual sex, and she talked about it without expressing any genuine sorrow.
All of us would like to excuse our sins, explain them away, compare ourselves to others, and convince ourselves they’ve not so bad. But doing this seriously damages our relationship with the Lord. In fact, if we know we’ve violated God’s commands but we don’t genuinely repent, Jesus says we don’t love Him (John 14:21).
Unrepentant sins separate us from a close relationship with the Lord (Isaiah 59:2).
Food offers a constant opportunity to take in gifts with gratitude, which is one of the fundamental practices of the spiritual life. Every time you eat is a chance to give thanks for all those many links in the great chain of being that brings nourishment to your body and your soul. It’s a chance to be grateful for the miracle of your body, which can take food and turn it into the miracle that is you or, if you are pregnant, your developing child. There are plenty of times when I take food for granted, when I treat it merely as fuel, or when, to use one of the phrases I like least in the English language, I just “grab a bite.” But other times, whether it’s in receiving the Eucharist or eating Cyndi’s homemade pizza on Friday nights, I’m full—of wonder, gratitude, and a sense of belonging with those I eat with and with the beautiful living world that brings such miracles to my plate. Saying grace over meals, then eating with full awareness and intention, is one of the most profoundly spiritual practices I know of—and we have a chance to do it several times, every day.
St. Walburga (710-777 A.D.) was born near Devonshire, England, the daughter of St. Richard the Pilgrim (a Saxon king) and the sister of Sts. Willibald and Winebald. When she was eleven her father and brothers went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land, while her father placed her in a convent famous for its holiness. She was well educated according to her rank, became a nun, and lived there for twenty-six years. Her uncle, St. Boniface, then brought her to what is now Germany to help him evangelize that country and establish the Church there. In this missionary activity she joined her brothers who were also laboring for the faith in that country, one as an abbot, the other as a bishop. Because of her education she was able to document the travels of her brother in the Holy Land, and for this work she became the first female author of England and Germany. She was known as a miracle worker and healer both in her life and after her death. St. Walburga’s relics have the miraculous property of exuding oil to which many cures have been ascribed through the centuries. St. Walburga is the patron saint of sailors, mariners, and farmers, and against hydrophobia, famine, coughs, rabies, plague, and storms. St. Walburga’s feast day is February 25th.
“The Eucharist is alive. If a stranger who knew nothing about the Eucharist were to watch the way we receive, would he know this? When you and I approach the Eucharist, does it look like we believe we are about to take into our bodies the living person, Jesus Christ, true God and true man? How many times, Lord, have I forgotten that the Eucharist is alive! As I wait in line to receive you each day, am I thinking about how much you want to unite yourself with me? Am I seeing your hands filled with the graces you want to give me? Am I filled with awe and gratitude that you love me so much as to actually want to come to me in this incredibly intimate way? Or am I distracted, busy with other thoughts, preoccupied with myself and my agendas for the day? How many times, Jesus, have I made you sad, mindlessly receiving you into my body, into my heart, with no love and no recognition of your love? How many times have I treated you as a dead object? The Host that we receive is not a thing! It’s not a wafer! It’s not bread! It’s a person – He’s alive!” —Vinny Flynn, p. 8