Thankfully, God is consistent, so the meaning of a number in Genesis remains the same all the way to the book of Revelation.
Sometimes the spiritual significance is not revealed directly, but in the case of “40” and its many examples throughout the Bible, we can be certain of its importance and significance.
It is when the couple will plant orchards whose fruit they themselves will not enjoy—while tasting the fruit that has been made available to them by their parents and grandparents.
The married couple, open to bearing and raising children, assume wholly new relations to the world around them.
We need desperately to reintroduce young men and young women to the delightfulness of the opposite sex. In our swamp of miserable statistics, let me introduce another that is often overlooked. First, it is evidence of deep and widespread loneliness.
It’s been more than ten years since I first noticed something odd about the generally pleasant—and generally Catholic—students at the college where I teach. Let that serve as shorthand for the absence of all those rites of attraction and conversation, flirting and courting, that used to be passed along from one youthful generation to the next, just as childhood games were once passed along, but are so no longer. I am aware of the many attempts by responsible Catholic priests and laymen to win the souls of young people, to keep them in the Church, and indeed to make some of them into attractive ambassadors for the Church. Yes, we need those frank discussions about contraception.
We need theological lectures to counter the regnant nihilism of the schools and the mass media.
It is irresponsible in us, then, to let our youth muddle and meander; to suppose that marriage will eventually “happen.” For my whole life, the ecclesially minded have asked, “What can we do to keep our youth in the Church?
” And their attempts haven’t worked, because they have viewed young people as consumers of a churchly product, rather than as boys and girls, young men and young women, with obvious natures and needs.
That way, we minimize the hurt—of course there will be—when we break up. But remember, obedience will prevent us from unnecessary consequences. Our business is to do the right thing based on the right information at the right time. It also follows that a courtship that leads to marriage is not always a successful one. But would I want to prevent it from happening if I could go back in time? I could only look back and reflect on my immaturity and shortsightedness back then. When I look at how far God has brought me, I thank Him. Take note of misguided priorities, wrong notions of love, and unwillingness to listen to God’s will. Is He someone who is kill-joy, who doesn’t want you to be happy?