The last five articles have described some Old Testament precedents for the 40 days of Lent.
Here we will consider a less famous 40-day time, the journey of Elijah to Mount Horeb, where he heard the voice of God instructing him on how to prepare for a brighter future. Elijah was the greatest prophet of his time, the early to middle 9th century B.C., when the weak Ahab was king of Israel and the wicked Jezebel was queen. At one point, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal by calling down fire from heaven upon his sacrifice at Mount Carmel.
Then, at his prayer, the long drought that had been afflicting Israel ended. The people temporarily turned back to the true God. But then Jezebel, furious at the destruction of the priests of Baal, sent assassins to kill Elijah; and no one sought to stop her. And so Elijah went into hiding and told God that his ministry seemed to be a failure. But God instructed him to make a 40 day pilgrimage to Mount Horeb, which is also Mount Sinai.
There upon the mount, as Elijah waited for the voice of God, he saw a colossal storm, a tremendous earthquake, and an immense fire around the mountain. But God was not in the storm, earthquake or fire. Elijah then heard a quiet whispering voice, and knew it was God speaking to him. God told him to appoint new kings for Israel and the neighboring Aram, and to anoint Elisha as the new prophet. Elijah then continued his ministry with greater power until the time when he was brought up to heaven in a fiery chariot. Elijah’s pilgrimage to Mount Horeb exemplifies the importance of listening to the quiet voice of God in the midst of the world, and so receiving wisdom and strength for the future.
As Blessed Pope Paul VI said in a homily on the Feast of the Holy Family, “we need this wonderful state of mind [silent prayer] beset as we are by the cacophony of strident protests and conflicting claims so characteristic of these turbulent times.”
The world may often be hostile to the faith, but God calls us like Elijah to respond with faith, hope and charity. To do so, it is crucial that we take time in silence away from the world to hear the voice of God giving us the wisdom and strength needed for us to discern and to carry out His plans for a better world.