BY: Fr. Christian Eze



First reading – Jonah 3:1-5.10    Second reading – 1 Cor. 7:29-31 Gospel – Mk. 1:14-20

The major term of Jonah’s preaching to the people of Nineveh as we see in today’s first reading was: “Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed” Jonah 3:4. A period of forty days is a time fix often mentioned in the Bible. In many places where it was used, we often discover a period of testing, trial, probation, or chastisement. The ending of such period of time as we see their accounts in the bible often differs, depending on the response given by the person/s for whom it has been intended. Thus, these forty days period is capable of being either a stepping stone or a stumbling block. A careful and obedient heed to the voice of “only forty days more” leads to life. But a careless negligence of the warning of “only forty days more” leads to a total ruin.

In the case of the people of Nineveh, they heeded the voice of “only forty days more” and they encountered God’s mercy. We can note a similar experience in the life of Israel when it took them forty days to go and reconnoiter the Promised Land – Nub. 13:25. While those who despised the grace of God met their end in the wilderness (Numb 14:34-35) and even caused Israel a forty years stress, there were still that few – Joshua and Caleb who met God’s  mercy by grasping the grace of the forty days. They became Heroes (Numb 18:35). The forty days would always come as the last voice of warning either to accept and live, or to reject and be swallowed up. In Gen 7:12, the people of Noah’s generation took it for granted and it was not fun for them.

It is being said that a fool at forty is a fool forever. May be it has been a while now somebody is being asked to leave a particular woman or man alone, to let that helpless and oppressed go free, to let that piece of land be, to leave vengeance for God. Could this be a last warning for someone? I do not know what. But I smell a rat by the words of the book of Proverbs that “He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will be struck at once beyond any remedy” Prov. 29:1

Another connotation of the “forty days more” in the bible could also mean a moment one is called upon to be courageous in order to embrace a glorious end. In such, we usually see the various elements like wilderness travel – it took Elijah forty days and forty nights to get to mountain Horeb – 1Kg. 19:8 where he encountered the Lord. For Moses too to get the Decalogue from the Lord, he had to spend a period of forty days and forty night nights on the mountain not eating, not drinking. – Deut.9:9. For Jesus to fight against the Devil, He fasted forty days and forty nights – Matt. 4:1. And after the resurrection, He was on earth for forty days to put things in their shape before ascending to the Father – Acts 1:3.

All of the above connote a total endurance to the end. What you may be passing through at the moment could be your own period of forty days. The difficulties you had to put up with, the many disappointments you have encountered, the humiliation you have suffered, struggle over sin and temptations you have experienced, and many more; all these could amount to your forty days. There is an encouraging voice telling you “be strong, for only forty days more”.  The fact is that you do not even know the number of days left for you to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. What if you are just about to give up on the thirty eight or thirty ninth day? Courage! If you lose heart, you could lose the game. If you take heart, you win the game. Make this forty days of yours a stepping stone and not a stumbling block.

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