Browse through Scripture, and you’ll notice the number 40 is about as popular as Taylor Swift’s Instagram.
The Great Flood lasted for 40 days (Genesis 7:12)…
Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34:28)…
The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 days (Numbers 14:33)…
Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days (Matthew 4:2)…
You are about to enter into the season of Lent, lasting 40 days.
Hah. Not even one bit.
The number 40 represents something so beautiful: A period of preparation and cleansing (through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving) for something great that is coming. Lent is the perfect time to refresh our hearts and refocus ourselves on what really matters. That is why we give up the things (good and bad) that distract us and lead us away from God.
But, Lent is also a dangerous time to settle for unrealistic expectations or mediocre outcomes.
Especially when we start to question what saying, “no” to that delicious already-prepared-cheeseburger-sitting-in-front-of-us-on-a-random-Friday-in-Lent can actually do for us.
Lent is so much more than meaningless abstinence. It is about giving up the little things to grow in our ability to not give in to the larger things. It is about growing in patience with ourselves and in relationship with God through prayer. It is about remembering God’s incredible mercy and His never-ending desire to forgive us – to forgive you, to forgive me. It is about growing in humility; because the sooner we recognize we can’t do it all on our own, the quicker we realize God has it all under control.
Yet, we remain human, and we forget these simple realities. So, we must be reminded that attaining sainthood isn’t just a luxury for the few, but a reality for us all. This Lent, when you find yourself needing a little extra push to fight harder, see clearer, wait better… look no further than right here.
And, remember 40 days is really not as long as you think it is.
When your patience is thin and fasting loses its meaning…
“Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity.” St. Augustine
“You could say that prayer without fasting is like boxing with one hand tied behind your back, and that fasting without prayer is, well, dieting.” Matt Fradd
“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.” Matthew 6:6
”Fasting and almsgiving are ‘the two wings of prayer’ which enable it to gain momentum and more easily reach even to God.” St Augustine
”Patience obtains all things.” St Teresa of Avila
“Fasting is most intimately connected with prayer. For the mind of one who is filled with food and drink is so borne down as not to be able to raise itself to the contemplation of God, or even to understand what prayer means.” Catechism of the Council of Trent
“The goal of fasting is inner unity. This means hearing, but not with the ear; hearing, but not with the understanding; it is hearing with the spirit, with your whole being.” Fr. Thomas Merton
“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is ‘timing,’ it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” Fulton J. Sheen
“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” St. Augustine
“Have patience with all things, but first of all with yourself.” St. Francis de Sales
“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy [almsgiving] is the lifeblood of fasting. Let no one try to separate them… So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy.” – St. Peter Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church
“Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Make for it two wings: fasting and almsgiving.” – St. Augustine (En. ps. 42, 8).
When prayer seems difficult…
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
“You don’t need to use many or high-sounding words. Just repeat often, ‘Lord, show me your mercy as you know best.’ Or, ‘God, come to my assistance.” St. Marcarius of Alexandria
“Seek God in all things and we shall find God by our side.” St. Peter Claver
“You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.” Saint Josemaría Escrivá
“Seek a relationship when you pray, not answers. You won’t always find answers, but you will always find Jesus.” Father Mike Schmitz
“Prayer is being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him who, we know, loves us.” St. Teresa of Avila
“By turning your eyes on God in meditation, your whole soul will be filled with God.” Saint Francis de Sales
“If the lungs of prayer and the Word of God do not nourish the breath of spiritual life, we risk suffocating in the midst of a thousand daily cares. Prayer is the breath of the soul and of life.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
“Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” St. Therese of Lisieux
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry. Worry is useless, God is merciful and will hear your prayer.” St. Pio of Pietrelcina
When you struggle to find confidence in God’s mercy and forgiveness…
“God’s face is the face of a merciful father who is always patient. Have you thought about God’s patience, the patience he has with each one of us? That is his mercy. He always has patience, patience with us; he understands us, he waits for us, he does not tire of forgiving us if we are able to return to him with a contrite heart.” Pope Francis (Angelus Address, Marcy 17, 2013)
“You do not need to wallow in guilt. Wallow in the mercy of God.” St. John Vianney
“Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin…. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Hope and have confidence in confession.” St. Isidore
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5
“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but He does what is still more wonderful: He makes saints out of sinners.” Soren Kierkegaard
“God acts mercifully, not indeed by going against His justice, but by doing something more than justice.” St. Thomas Aquinas
“God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy.” Pope Francis
“For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy to all who call on you.” Psalm 86:5
“There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy.” Jesus to St. Faustina
When you need humility…
“Lord, have mercy on me! … I make no effort to conceal my wounds. You are my physician, I your patient. You are merciful; I stand in need of mercy.” St. Augustine
“Lean on your Beloved, because the soul who abandons themselves in the hands of Jesus in all they do, is carried in his arms.” St. Clare
“Our sins are nothing but a grain of sand along the great mountain of the mercy of God.” St. John Vianney
“Just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands, and leave it with him. Then you will be able to rest in him — really rest.” St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
”As gifts increase in you, let your humility grow, for you must consider that everything is given to you on loan. ” St Pio
“True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.” Saint Francis de Sales
“Great holiness consists in carrying out the ‘little duties’ of each moment.” Saint Josemaría Escrivá
“Do you wish to rise? Begin by descending. You plan a tower that will pierce the clouds? Lay first the foundation of humility.” Saint Augustine
“There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” Saint Teresa of Avila
“The most powerful weapon to conquer the devil is humility. For, as he does not know at all how to employ it, neither does he know how to defend himself from it.” Saint Vincent de Paul