Fr Paul reads from the Gospel of Luke (9: 22-25) in which Jesus, after telling his disciples that the Son of Man will suffer many things, says to them all, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine let them renounce themselves and take up their cross every day and follow me’.  Fr Paul says these first four days of Lent before the First Sunday of Lent set the tone for us in different ways. There should be forty days of Lent to correspond to the forty days of Jesus’ time of preparation in the desert for his own mission. In the Bible ‘forty’ is often a time of preparation: the forty years of Israel in the desert of Sinai, preparing for entry into the Promised Land; the forty days of Elijah in the desert before his vision of God; and the forty days of preparation that the disciples experience between the Resurrection and the Ascension, preparing them for their mission.   The element vital to Lent, which the Church sets before us today, is the first prophecy of the Passion (the death and Resurrection of Jesus). We already know, the disciples have been drastically slow to learn who Jesus is, and at last Peter pipes up and says, ‘You are the Christ (the Anointed One, the expected Messiah)’. But even so, he has not appreciated or understood what this means, for Jesus is not the expected warrior-king who will sweep the Romans into the sea. His way of fulfilling the prophecies is as a suffering Messiah. So, in all the Gospels, he immediately follows his recognition as Messiah by the first prophecy of the Passion. Each of the three great prophecies of the Passion is misunderstood by the disciples, who – like us – shy away from the message that the disciple of Christ must share in his suffering. If we are to prepare to share with Christ at Easter in the Resurrection, we must do this by sharing in his suffering. This is what today’s Gospel stresses.Fr Paul notes today’s Gospel Lesson – We have 40 days to prepare for Easter.