40 Days in the Desert
On the First Sunday of Lent, from the Gospel of St. Luke:
Filled with the holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. -Luke 4:1-2, NAB
As we begin the season of Lent, we are reminded of the story of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, where He fasted to prepare Himself for the work to be done. We mimic this same practice today through our Lenten sacrifices and penances – preparing ourselves for Easter and our ministries in the world.
First, we must understand the setting for this story. Jesus is “filled with the Holy Spirit” and returning from the Jordan River, which is referencing His baptism in Luke 3. Now, aided by the Holy Spirit, He is ready to take on the challenge of facing the devil during His 40 days in the desert.
This is the challenge given to us. We, like Jesus, are supposed to endure 40 days in our own spiritual deserts, relying on the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us. The goal, then, is less about testing ourselves physically, and more about helping us to build reliance on God.
Many people will do the math and realize that the time from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday (when Lent officially ends) is not 40 days, though. Actually, it is 44 days. How come? Well, we do not fast on Sundays during Lent, and there are 6 Sundays in that period, so 44 – 6 = 38. Now, add Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and 38 + 2 = 40, our 40 days in the desert.
May your 40 days in the desert serve to bring you closer to God and help to rebuild your reliance on the Holy Spirit. With the help of the Holy Spirit, you will be ready to face the temptations of the world and will be equipped to do the work of the Lord.