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LENT, 40 DAYS: WHAT DOES THE NUMBER 40 STAND FOR IN THE BIBLE?

John 5:1-15; Homily of St Augustine, Bishop

Let us see what is mystically signified by that one infirm man whom the Lord himself, keeping to a mysterious unity, chose out of so many sufferers to be the subject of his healing power.

He found in him a certain number of years indicative of sickness. He had had an infirmity thirty-eight years. How this number pertains rather to weakness than to health, must be somewhat more carefully expounded.

I wish you to be attentive: the Lord will be at hand to help us, that I may speak in fitting words, and that you may listen well.

The number 40 in Holy Scripture

The number forty is commended to our notice as one consecrated by a kind of perfection: this, I suppose, is well known to you, beloved; the Holy Scriptures very often bear witness of it.

You are well aware that fasting was consecrated by this number. For Moses fasted forty days, and Elia the same; and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ himself fulfilled this number by fasting.

By Moses is signified the law; by Elia is signified the Prophets; by the Lord is signified the Gospel. And therefore, all three appeared on that mountain, where he showed himself to his disciples in the brightness of his countenance and raiment: for he appeared in the middle, between Moses and Elia, even as the Gospel receives testimony from the Law and the Prophets.

The Gospel, the Law, and the Prophets

And, therefore, whether it be in the Law, or in the Prophets, or in the Gospel, the number forty is brought to our notice in the matter of fasting.

Now, fasting, in its large and general import, is to abstain from sin and the unlawful pleasures of the world, and this is the perfect fast: That, denying ungodliness and worldly desires, we should live soberly and justly, and godly in this world.

What reward does the Apostle attach to his fast? He goes on to say: “Looking for the blessed hope and glorious coming of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

The 40 days abstinence in Lent

In this world, therefore, we celebrate, as it were, the forty days’ abstinence, when we live aright, when we abstain from sin and unlawful pleasures; but since this abstinence will not be without reward, we look for that blessed hope and revelation of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ. In that hope, when the reality of the hope shall have come to pass, we are to receive our wages, a denarius. the wages paid to the labourers working in the vineyard, according to the Gospel, as I believe you remember; for one must not repeat everything, as if to persons ignorant and inexperienced. This denarius, then, which takes its name from the number ten, is paid, and this joined with the forty makes up fifty; and so it is that before Easter we keep the forty days of Lent with hardships; but with joy, as though having received our wages, do we keep the fifty days after Easter.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart…

Remember what I proposed: the number thirty-eight of the years of this weakened man. I wish to explain how this number thirty-eight belongs rather to weakness than to health.

Therefore, as I was saying, charity fulfils the Law: the number forty belongs to the completing of the Law in all works.

But in charity there are two commandments commended to us: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind” and “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets. With good reason did that widow place, in the offerings of God, two mites – all she had; with good reason did the innkeeper receive two pieces of money for the sick man who had been wounded by robbers, that he might restore him to health; with good reason did Jesus spend two days among the Samaritans, that he might confirm them in charity. For by this number two, since it signifies something good, the two-fold duty of charity is especially commended. If then, in the number forty is contained the perfection of the Law, and the Law cannot be fulfilled but by the twofold precept of charity, why do you wonder that this man was sick, who was short of forty by two years?

R. The season of the fast has opened to us the gates of heaven; let us enter it with prayer and supplication, * That on the day of the resurrection we may rejoice with the Lord. V. In all things let us conduct ourselves as ministers of God in much patience.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end.

– From: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964

 

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Posted by on February 17, 2016 in Words of Wisdom

 

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O GOD, SHOW ME YOUR GLORY!

God reveals Himself to Moses

“How admirable are the divine manifestations in the life of Moses, the beloved! A fugitive, weeping in the desert over the misfortunes og his people, he perceives in the distamce a mysterious flame; he draws near to examine it – behold! it is the Glory of God!

A voice speaks: ‘Moses! Moses!’

‘Lord, I am here.’

‘Approach not, for the place on which you tread is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, of Issac, and of Jacob. I have seen the affliction of my people, I have heard their bitter cry; go thou and snatch them from the hands of the Egyptian.’

‘But if the people ask me Who is He Who sends you?’

‘I am Who am’; you will say: ‘He Who is sends me to you.’

‘But Lord, I am infirm, and cannot speak.’

‘Go, I place My power in your hands; miracles compel belief.’

And Moses goes. In the land of Egypt, in the desert into which he leads his rescued people, God speaks to him again; in the last books of the Pentateuch one sees constantly repeated: ‘The Lord spoke to Moses, the Lord said to Moses.’ God speaks to His servant doring the voyage, in the tent, in the assemblies of the people, on Sinai, where the Holy Law is promulgated, at the door and beneath the veils of the Tabernacle.

God speaks to His servant, not as to other mortals, but face to face, as one speaks to a friend.

So often has the prophet seen the splebdid vision of the Lord that his countenance bears its radiant traves and that, emboldened by so many favours, he dares to say, in a moment of sublime familiarity: ‘O God, show me your glory!’ Ostende mihi gloriam tuam!

– R. P. Monsabre

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Words of Wisdom

 

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TODAY’S BIBLE READING I (DEUTERONOMY 8:2-3, 14-16)

HE FED YOU WITH MANNA WHICH NEITHER YOU NOR YOUR FATHERS HAD KNOWN.

Moses said to the people: ‘Remember how the Lord your God led you for forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, to test you and to know your inmost heart – whether you would keep his commandments or not. He humbled you, made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

‘Do not then forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery: who guided you through this vast and dreadful wilderness, a land of fiery serpents, scorpions, thirst; who in this waterless place brought you water from the hardest rock; who in this wilderness fed you with manna that your fathers had not known.’

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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“EVEN A FEEBLE LENT OF BROKEN RESOLUTIONS MAY BY GOD’S GRACE BRING ABOUT A CHANGE IN ME”

“THE KEY TO UNDERSTANDING THE TEMPTATIONS OF JESUS

Jesus’ own period of 40 days in the desert introduces us to the meaning of Lent, for the experience of Jesus can itself only be understood in relation to the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert. Exodus recounts the story of how, by a gratuitous act of love on God’s part, in fidelity to a promise he made long ago – a promise which would seen to be all empty by reason of the years and the suffering which have intervened – God allows Israel to escape from the slavery of Egypt to worship him in the wilderness. There the Lord offers them a covenant on Sinai. He feeds them miraculously and even overlooks their worshipping a golden calf to bring them at last to the Promised Land.

NOT SEEKING TO ISOLATE OURSELVES FROM GOD BY MATERIAL SECURITY

Now we have the key to understanding the temptations of Jesus: the temptation to worship the Devil, the temptation to turn stones into bread, the temptations to power. These would all be temptations like those of his ancestors, to somehow want to be self-reliant, whereas the wilderness experience is about discovering the only true freedom: a total reliance on God expressed in worship of him, fidelity to his law and an essential love of poverty, of a depending on him for my how am I to live, not seeking once to isolate myself from him by material security.

THE ONLY TRUE FREEDOM: TOTAL RELIANCE ON GOD

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are all to teach me reliance on God and solidarity with those who suffer. They are to make space in me for knowledge of my poverty and tame my ego a bit. Even a feeble Lent, a Lent of broken resolutions, might by God’s grace bring about a change in me if I am forced to admit how weak is my will, how shallow my religiosity, and how deep and real my need for God’s mercy. Remember that wonderful Chesterton paradox used to describe a saint: ‘A saint can be recognised by the fact that he knows himself to be a sinner.’

‘LOOK NOT ON OUR SINS, BUT ON THE FAITH OF YOUR CHURCH’

Just as Jesus needed to immerse himself the story of Israel, the story of God’s miraculous saving in history, so Lent is a time of identifying myself more fully with the Church, to experience in this time the miraculous effects the saving God wishes to bring about in my own history, particularly through the miraculous signs and wonders of the sacraments. This is not merely a personal journey, but also a collective one for the whole Church, a time to remember the prayer which precedes Communion which asks God to look ‘not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church’. It is also a time to remember that however weak or sinful I may feel I am supported by the merits and intercession of the whole Church. Together as part of the Chosen People we will rejoice in the arrival at the Promised Land of Easter.

LOOK TO THE HORIZON AND JUST KEEP GOING

We will welcome the newly baptised at Easter and share in the joy of the salvation they have been promised. Exodus also reminds us that salvation has a history: it does not happen all at once. We are on a journey. The direction of travel is all-important, and the wonderful promise of the destination allows one to lift the eyes to the horizon and slog on, even when the going is touch and we lament what must be left behind.”
– This is an excerpt of “Diary of a City Priest”, by Pastor Iuventus, (available from Amazon) which was published in “The Catholic Herald” issue March 14 2014. For subscriptions please visit http://www.catholicherald.co.uk (external link).

 

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23rd MARCH, BIBLE READING I (EXODUS 17:3-7)

WATER FROM THE ROCK

Tormented by thirst, the people complained against Moses. ‘Why did you bring us out of Egypt?’ they said. ‘Was it so that I should die of thirst, my children too, and my cattle?’

Moses appealed to the Lord. ‘How am I to deal with this people?’ he said. ‘A little more and they will stone me!’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘Take with you some of the elders of Israel and move on to the forefront of the people; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the river, and go. I shall be standing before you there on the rock, at Horeb. You must strike the rock, and water will flow from it for the people to drink.’

This is what Moses did, in the sight of the elders of Israel. The place was named Massah and Meribah because of the grumbling of the sons of Israel and because they put the Lord to the test by saying, ‘Is the Lord with us, or not?’

V. The word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.

 

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FROM OUR PRIVILEGED PLACE WITHIN THE ARK OF CHRIST’S HOLY CHURCH, WE WAIT LIKE NOAH…

THE LORD HAS GATHERED US TO HIMSELF AND KEPT US SAFE

“From our privileged place within the ark of Christ’s holy Church, we wait like Noah for the sign of God’s loving covenant to save us from the killing flood of sin. The Lord has gathered us to himself and kept us safe. It is the Lord who has filled us with the desire for himself, our souls yearning for holiness. Even as the flood waters subside, we find ourselves thirsting for the living water, for an encounter with the living God like the kind that the woman at the well longed for without knowing.

Where can we turn to see the face of God? In our trust and abandonment, we await the Lord as the farmer awaits the great harvest that begins with the scattering of so much simple seed. He then goes to sleep at night and rises again in the morning, day after day, until the seed grows without his knowing how it happens. To claim God’s provident care is the Christian’s exalted glory. That glory is the fruit of humility and confidence.

THE FRUIT OF HUMILITY AND CONFIDENCE

For forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert. The Lord led them in their lengthy vigil, preparing them to enter into the Promised Land. Never did they go without food, without water, without protection. God’s calendar and schedule are not our own. We wait in faith. We follow as disciples. We rejoice in the way God’s will unfolds.

Our life is in God’s hands. Even if an enemy is to come while we are asleep and to sow weeds through our wheat, we will wait. We will let weeds and wheat grow together until the time of the harvest. Then we will gather the wheat into our barns, and burn the bundles of worthless weeds. For God’s purpose rules in every circumstance. His greatness shines in the smallest details. The Lord overlooks nothing. And so, we throw off every temptation to fuss and fret, like the anxious Martha. We wait this night in contemplation with Mary at the feet of the Master.”
– Peter John Cameron, O.P.

 
 

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