Christ is Risen!  Alleluia! Alleluia!

He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! Alleluia!

Happy Easter, and Happy Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord to Heaven!

Numbers are not just numbers when it comes to Sacred Scripture or in the life of the Church.

The numbers 3, 7, and 40 are just a few that should catch our attention.

The 3 Persons of the Blessed Trinity, after 3 days Mary and Joseph found the child Jesus in the temple, and on the 3rd day Jesus rose from the dead.  God’ rested on the 7th Day, the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the 7 Sacraments, and 7 is the symbol of perfection, biblically speaking. As for 40, there is a whole list of 40s in the Old and New Testaments:

  • Forty days and nights of rain during the flood
  • Moses lived forty years in Egypt
  • Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai
  • The Jews journeyed through the desert for forty years to the Promised Land
  • Jonah preached forty days to Nineveh
  • The prophet Ezekiel laid on his right side for forty days to symbolize the sins of Judah
  • Elijah fasted for forty days on Mount Horeb
  • Goliath taunted Israel for forty days
  • Jesus fasted in the desert forty days

The most important 40…the 40 days Jesus remained on earth after His resurrection from the dead.

Over the course of these 40 days he appeared to His Apostles multiple times, and to over 500+ people.

Skeptics could easily dismiss the reports of a resurrected Christ coming from His Apostles.  They were His closest friends, they would have had the most skin in the game.  But to refute the eye-witness testimony of more than 500 people who reported they had seen the Risen Christ…that would be very difficult to do.  Over the past several Sundays we have heard a bit of what Christ did over those 40 Days.

Appearing in the locked Upper Room, not once but twice, walking with disciples on the road to Emmaus, in the breaking of the Bread, on the shore making a meal for His Apostles, talking with them and giving them more of His teachings.  Finally on the 40th day giving them the Great Commission, Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19-20

Why the 40th day?  Why not on the 7th or the 3rd?  Christ does nothing by chance or happenstance.  There is a reason for everything and everything is done for a reason.  

Take a look a few lines back at that list of 40s from the Old Testament. Each was either 40 days or 40 years, but each has something in common.  Fr. Charles Grondin, in an article on Catholic Answers (The Significance of the Number Forty) states that the number 40 is a biblical way of saying a period of time was completed.  At the end of each of the listed 40 days or years, a great event took place marking the end of one period of time and ushering in another. A significant change took place, a transition to something new.

This can be seen with Jesus’ 40 days in the desert before beginning His public ministry.  His hidden life would be coming to an end, the significant event was His baptism in the Jordan River, and His public life and the fulfillment of God’s Plan for Salvation began.

We can see this with the 40 days leading up to the Ascension.  Christ’s work of Salvation is complete, the Ascension is the significant event, and it ushers in the birth of the Church: a new way for us to be united to God through the life of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.  Christ returns to the Father, bearing the marks of His work of Salvation. His mission is complete.  Now, He gives His students a mission: spread the Good News of Salvation, and bring others into the fullness of the Truth they received from Him. There is a transition of authority to teach, to govern, and to sanctify from Jesus to His Apostles, the first pope and bishops. And in nine days on Pentecost the world will see the New Covenant in the birth and life of the Church. Amen, and Alleluia!

One more thought about the connection between the 40 days in the desert before Jesus’ public life and the 40 days of glory after the completion of His public work of salvation.  During those 40 days in the desert, Jesus was tempted by Satan, the one who tempted Adam and Eve and played a role in bringing about the whole reason Jesus came.  Scripture tells us of three temptations, but it is quite possible that the devil tempted Christ throughout those 40 days in the desert. Now after His passion, death, and Resurrection, for  40 days Christ walks the earth with a glorified body, triumphant over death itself.  In a way the 40 days between Easter and the Ascension are Christ’s victory lap.  In the words of an Easter hymn,

The strife is o’er, the battle done;

the victory of life is won;

the song of triumph has begun.


The powers of death have done their worst,

but Christ their legions has dispersed.

Let shouts of holy joy outburst.


Keep celebrating! Keep praising God with Alleluia!  Keep in mind we have a birthday celebration just around the corner. Come Holy Spirit!