By Mary Ellen Green, O.P.
So much is being shared these days about how to survive our imposed “lockdown” situation. Parents are finding new ways to be with their children. Spouses and partners are rediscovering how to be together. Social media bridges the miles that separate us from those we love. It is all surreal, isn’t it!
And yet, isn’t it also a wonderful opportunity to deepen one’s spiritual life? In the gospels we often hear that Jesus went away to rest or to pray. Sometimes he stayed up all night, communing with his Father. He also spent 40 days in the desert, preparing for his ministry. Forty days is a long time. Will this lockdown last for 40 days? Quite likely it will and maybe more. What an awesome chance to replicate in some small way the experience of Jesus and other figures in Scripture!
Just imagine how we would be at the end of that period of time if we spent at least part of it in silence and in prayer. We would be transformed and the universe would be transformed as well.
Forty is a special number in Scripture. Mentioned 146 times in Scripture, the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing or trial or probation:
- God flooded the earth by having it rain for 40 days and nights (Genesis 7:12).
- Moses lived 40 years in Egypt and 40 years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery.
- Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 - 28), receiving God's laws. He also sent scouts, for 40 days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34).
- The prophet Jonah warned ancient Nineveh, for 40 days, that its destruction would come because of its many sins.
- Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb.
- Jesus was tempted during the 40 days and nights he fasted just before his ministry began. He also appeared to his disciples and others for 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.
So what is your plan for this special period in our lives? Is God included?