In yesterday’s post we talked about the number 40 (Noah, Moses, Jesus and so on).
But we didn’t mention all of the forty-something episodes. There are more than one would expect. (For example, the prophet Elijah was sent by God to Mount Horeb which was a 40 day journey; I Kg 19:8).
Interestingly, often the 40 days (or years) is linked to a journey or a time of enduring. So we were appropriately stunned today when one of our Newsletter subscribers (Thanks M_____!) pointed out that a pregnancy is typically 40 weeks long (actually the normal range is 38 to 42 weeks). This is fascinating when one considers that our faith holds up for us the 40 years the people of Israel wandered in the desert and the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness as critical periods of formation for a people and a Person. So, in pregnancy we see that every growing unborn/preborn human is specially “formed” for his or her mission in life in those first 40 weeks. And the mother experiences a challenge also (Thanks Eve!).
The unborn baby and the mother are undergoing a primordial preparation TOGETHER! This is an incredible aspect of pregnancy, too obvious sometimes to appreciate, that mother and child together are striving towards a shared goal at the end of the 40 weeks. Both persons – in their bodies and in their souls – are being formed, prepared, challenged. God wants to help the woman through this time by providing her with the example of Christ (in the wilderness for 40 days) and also with a “communion of saints” of Israelites who endured the famous 40 year trek and all women past and present who have gone through this journey of pregnancy.
To carry a baby for 40 weeks and then give birth to him or her is a near mystical experience. During this 40 weeks of preparation, God heaps upon the woman opportunities to discover life’s tender and timeless mysteries. And for the unborn baby, well, Unborn Jesus is watching over this little one in supernatural solidarity!
Finally, the Pope’s Lenten Message (2008) can speak to the pregnant woman’s heart, for pregnancy, like Lent, is a “process of interior renewal” which “stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God” and can help us to “learn to make of our lives a total gift”. Benedict reminds us that: “When we do things out of love, we express the truth of our being; indeed, we have been created not for ourselves but for God and our brothers and sisters (cf. 2 Cor 5,15).”
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