Joseph Andrews of Independence, MO, USA
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness…He fasted forty days and forty nights. -Matthew 4:1-2
In the Christian calendar 40 days marks the period of Lent, which comes before the celebrations of Easter. This is a season of reflection and preparation, often identified by fasting from food and other things. Only a small number of people today fast for the whole of Lent, although some maintain the practice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. By observing Lent, Christians replicate Jesus’ sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.
Where Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his death on the cross, Lent recalls the events leading up to and including Jesus’ crucifixion by the Romans.
But we ask, why 40 days? It turns out 40 is a significant number in Jewish-Christian scripture:
- In Genesis the flood which destroyed the Earth came about by 40 days and nights of rain.
- The Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the land promised to them by God.
- Moses fasted 40 days before receiving the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.
- Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry.
Both Eastern and Western churches observe Lent, but the 40 days are counted differently. The Western church excludes Sundays, which are celebrated as the day of Christ’s resurrection. The Eastern church includes Sundays. These churches also start Lent on different days. Western churches start Lent on the seventh Wednesday before Easter (called Ash Wednesday). Eastern churches start Lent on Monday of the seventh week before Easter and end it nine days before Easter. Eastern churches call this period the “Great Lent.”
Certain feelings and concepts come to mind as we move into Passion Week. I am caught up in the crowd’s joy, the sorrow, the pain, the hurtful events, unimaginable cruelty. I am touched each time I read these passages.
The events of Passion Week represent the ultimate gift of love.
The Lenten season provides an invitation for us to remember well this story that makes a huge difference in our lives. As we move through the mystery of this week and consider deeply all that transpired to our Lord and Savior for our sake, our lives will change. Mine will never be the same again.
Are we moving toward Jesus, the peaceful One?
Gospel Contemplation (Mark 1:9-11)
Each week during Lent, you are invited to pray with a different gospel story from the life of Christ. Use your senses and imagination to enter the text. Allow it to come to life in you, observing details, noticing interactions, even engaging in dialogue. Notice where you find yourself in the story and how you feel about what is happening. Notice what it evokes in you or invites of you. Take time to journal or enter silent prayer to reflect on your experience and to sense where the Spirit may be leading you through this scriptural encounter.
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.