That is why these preparations are not unsupported. Only God can truly shed light on the importance of 40 days in the lives of all of us. It can be read in biblical history, in the lives of prophets and saints how in 40 days God prepares, strengthens and purifies man to be worthy of his kingdom.
40 days happened several times in the Holy Bible. In Genesis 7:12, “ And the rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.” The Great Flood during the time of Noah cleansed the face of the earth from the wickedness of men.
Moses stayed in Mount Sinai for forty days when he received the ten commandments. “And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights: he neither ate bread nor drank water, and he wrote upon the tables the ten words of the covenant.”, (Exodus 34:28).
40 years in the wilderness, that’s what happened to the children of Israel who was freed from the bondage of Egyptians. Still, they murmurred and lost faith in God. And so their fate was wandering for 40 years before the promised land be found. As the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “According to the number of the forty days, wherein you viewed the land: year shall be counted for a day. And forty years you shall receive your iniquities, and shall know my revenge:” (Numbers 14:34)
Even the prophets were witness to the 40 days’ significance. Prophet Jonah warned the people of Nineveh for 40 days to repent from their sinful ways unless they will be destroyed. The people listened and fast and so they were spared. Prophet Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days one day for each year of Judah’s sins. Elijah traveled for to Mount Horeb for 40 days and 40 nights.
Our Lord Jesus Christ himself was tempted before His Passion: “Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1-2)
Jesus’ example of fasting and prayer during those 40 days was a perfect guide for all of us in following Him to Calvary. Our Lord Himself showed us how to prepare. Fasting and prayer are acts of tempering our spirit, body and soul for great sufferings. Again Pope St. Gregory the great said, “It is impossible to engage in spiritual conflict, without the previous subjugation of the appetite.” The sacrifice and penances we make during Lent we carry after Easter. The 40 days of Lent is like a season of training for the year ahead. We reap what we sow. St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminded them, ”Now this I say: He who soweth sparingly, shall also reap sparingly: and he who soweth in blessings, shall also reap blessings. (2 Corinthians 9:6)
Most Catholics believe as part of tradition that a departed soul wanders on earth for 40 days before his/her final call to cross the afterlife. The reason behind rosaries, special prayers and masses are said and offered to a departed love one on the 40th day of his /her passing.
Jesus Christ appeared before the apostles 40 days after His resurrection. “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3). And ascended into heaven 40 days after.
40 days or 40 years in the Bible were testament to many kinds of challenges and triumphs. God has shown us His patience, love and mercy. Mankind was able to show his obedience, faith and courage. “Be you humbled therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in the time of visitation: Casting all your care upon him, for he hath care of you. (Peter 5:6-7)
Whether it be 40 days or 40 years, we as devout followers of Christ and the Holy Catholic Church have to endure with our faith. Trusting the ways of the Lord and preparing with His grace.