Another Lent. Another glorious opportunity to examine our lives, not only in the negatives but including affirming the positives. If you keep beating yourself up, then the Catholic Church is not for you. The Catholic Church is always about hope, promise, joy and yes forgiveness and mercy. It’s the whole ball of wax.
Oh, wait! Did I just say, “Whole?” Yes, I did. You don’t leave home with only your right arm but your left as well. Like your body, your mind needs to remain whole. Otherwise, you’d walk like your mind with a leaning toward one side while missing out on the whole of you. Jesus spends 40 days in the desert as our Lenten experience begins. 40. Umph. I wonder why the number 40? Couldn’t Jesus have completed it in 25, counting weekends? Nope. It had to be 40. Why? Well, that easy. This is where the internet comes in handy. Ready?
—Forty days after the birth, Jesus was presented to the Temple of Jerusalem for his legal purification, according to the established law.
—The 40 days of fast of Jesus in the desert. Forty days separate the Ascension of Jesus of his Resurrection.
— The Flood of Noah lasted 40 days.
—Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights before to reach the Horeb mount. He fasted for 40 days before to begin his public ministry and he remained 40 days on Mount Carmel.
—The priest Eli had been a judge of Israel for 40 years.
—Moses was 40 years old when he was called by God and that he killed an Egyptian, and escaped in the desert of Midian. He kept the herd of Jethro for 40 years. He resided finally 40 days and 40 nights to the summit of the Mount Sinai before receiving the Tables of the Law.
—During 40 day Goliath defied David.
—The Hebrews wandered 40 years in the desert.
—I became a chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital when I was 40 years old.
—The people of Nineveh had to repent during 40 days.
—Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah.
—The embalming of Jacob was prolonged for 40 days.
—The reign of David on Israel lasted 40 years, the reign of Solomon in Jerusalem lasted for 40 years.
— Adam resented for 40 years after his corrupt practice.
—The number of chapters of the book of Exodus is forty.
According to Saint Augustine, forty expresses perfection “because the Law was given in ten commandments, then it is through the whole world that the Law has been preached, and the whole world is composed of four parts, Orient and Occident, South and North; therefore, by multiplying ten by four? Or, it is by how many Gospels books that the Law is accomplished?”
Paul Simon sings there’s “50 Ways To Love A Lover.” I guess he never read the Bible, there’s only 40. It’s wholeness folks.
Wholeness is not only a good psychological tool, but it’s an obligatory religious one as well. When you admit a failing or sin, it means that you know better. That’s healthy. Lent is not about dwelling on our sinfulness but reflecting deeply about our personal wholeness and our relationship with God and each other. To live out of a single chapter or one verse of our lives is to deny the wholeness of our lives. And, after these 40 days, on Easter Sunday, we proudly offer God our total worth – as the movie’s called – the good, bad and the ugly.
Just remember, if you have 40 sins then that means you also have 40 qualities. Just ask St. Augustine.