We began the season of Lent with the Ash Wednesday. There are forty days in lent excluding the six Sundays that occur between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. The number forty is a significant biblical number as we see the many important events happening in the” forty” period. The first event that is mentioned in the Bible is the flood at Noah’s time. God sent forty days and nights rain to inundate earth. Moses spent 40 days with God on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:18) and the Israelites were wanderers in the desert for forty years (Numbers 14:33). Forty days and nights, Elijah spent walking towards Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8). Prophet Jonah called for the Ninevehites to repent within forty days and Jesus before his public ministry retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for forty days, and was tempted by the devil( Matthew 4:1-2) In all these events we see a restrained and regulated life led by all and as a result a liberated new life with God.
Noah and his family did not allow themselves to be taken in by the sin and perversity that engulfed them. Noah, relying up on the word of God, made the Ark. It was not the wood of the Ark that saved them from the mighty deluge but the Wisdom of God (Wisdom 10:4). It was not the raised rod of Moses over the waters that parted the Red Sea, instead it was the Wisdom who delivered them (Wisdom 10:15). Moses spent forty days and forty night s on Mount Sinai without eating or drinking (Deuteronomy 9:9.) The Israelites had one meal on the night before they crossed the Red Sea and with the strength of that one meal they travelled in to the desert and of course in the desert they were fed for forty years with a heavenly food ‘Manna’. With the strength of the one meal Prophet Elijah walked for forty days and nights through the desert before he came to mount Horeb( 1Kings 19:8) Jesus spends forty days and nights in the desert without food and drinks( Matthew 4:2)
Jesus like Noah, crosses across the destructive flood of sin and death and reaches to the safe shores with the wooden cross to resurrection and eternal life. Like Moses, Jesus has got the rod (cross) to stretch over this world to provide a safe way through the desert of sin and to lead all those who follow him victoriously to the promise of eternal life.
What is there so special about Lent? Annually we have this program and we know what to do. As many of us consider the most important thing about Lent is to eat only fish on Fridays. All those who like fish it is a good opportunity for them to savor the varieties of sea food and for those who do not like, a day for them to be discontent with everything and to force themselves to eat macaroni and cheese. Why do we have to fast, what is the importance of fasting?
How hard it is for some of us to avoid one meal? The day you intend to fast you will feel extremely hungry. It is a fact that no one can live without food and drink, except God alone. We hear some strange survival stories. After 27 days a man was pulled out of the rubbles of the Haiti earth quake, he survived without food and water. There are those monks and Hindu gurus who survived many years without food and drink. They lived in deserts and in the interior forest or ashrams to be away from all distractions and they spend night and day in contemplation. Jesus himself withdrew to the mountain to be away from all the distractions of this world. For fasting we need to withdraw from the worldly distractions and we need to concentrate on God. When we fast, we are doing something that only God can do. Fasting enables us to be in tune with God. Fasting provides us the strength we require spiritually and physically. Fasting sharpens our mind and helps us to practice self-discipline. When we fast there is no need for the body to eliminate the waste; contrariwise if our stomach is full it becomes the most important need. When we fast, our physical hunger becomes spiritual hunger and our spiritual hunger leads us to the presence of God, and in the presence of God all hunger and thirst disappears. The crowd was with Jesus for three days without anything to eat. All that they did was that they listened to His words. When they listened to the word of God their hunger and thirst disappeared. But they felt hungry when they were going away from him (Matthew .15:32).
“For if we have offended God through our eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why shouldn’t we make the bodily senses fast as well?” ~ St. Francis de-Sales.