This Is The Time of Fulfillment

This Is The Time of Fulfillment

There was once a drug addict named Perry who was convicted and imprisoned for attempted murder. While in prison he underwent a spiritual conversion, and it happened in this manner. One night, after lights out, he was in his cell lying in his bunk when it suddenly occurred to him what a mess he’d made of his life; he’d ruined everything, there wasn’t anything admirable about his character, and he didn’t have a single major accomplishment of which he could be proud. For the first time, Perry honestly admitted to himself that his life was a waste, and that he was an utter failure as a person. At that moment, when Perry had hit bottom, God’s grace broke through; the humbled and heart-broken prisoner was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that everything he’d heard about God, but never really believed, was true: God existed, He loved him, and He wanted to forgive him. Perry suddenly needed and wanted to pray, but he didn’t know how, other than talking out loud and speaking to the Lord from his heart. That would have been fine, except Perry didn’t want his cell mate Chico to overhear—so he waited a long time until he was sure Chico was asleep, then he quietly crawled out of his bunk, got down on his knees, and began praying from his heart. Perry spoke to the Lord of all his regrets and sorrows, his disappointments and fears, and his sincere desire to change—all the while whispering so he wouldn’t be overheard. However, when he finished his prayer, another voice said, “Amen.” It turned out Chico was awake, and he said, “I believe in God, too.” Perry and Chico then began talking to each other about God and their need for Him, and continued their sharing until early in the morning. When they finally said goodnight, Perry said, “It’s good to discover that God is finally with us.” To this, Chico responded, “I’m thinking that God is always with us—it’s just that we’re not always with Him” (Link, Illustrated Sunday Homilies, Year B, p. 19).

Lent is a time for us to be with God, to overcome any obstacles that hinder this experience, and to grow more fully in His grace; it’s a chance to make a new beginning. Because we’re already trying to live out our faith, we don’t need a complete spiritual conversion, as Perry did, but all of us can benefit from a time of renewed effort and growth. Lent is meant to be that time. We can be with God by growing in grace, by admitting our sins, and by living out the Gospel.

The readings we’ve heard on this First Sunday of Lent very appropriately speak of new beginnings. In the passage from the Book of Genesis (9:8-15), the Lord is speaking to Noah and his sons after the Great Flood, which had destroyed sinful humanity. God now establishes a covenant, or sacred agreement, that never again will the waters of the earth be such a source of death and destruction. In the 2nd Reading (1 Pet 3:18-22), St. Peter describes the flood as a forerunner, or symbol, of baptism. The Great Flood had washed away wickedness from the earth; baptism washes away original sin. In each case a new life and a new relationship with God results. The Gospel (Mk 1:12-15) speaks of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and of the new age it ushered in. After Jesus was baptized, He went to the desert for a time of prayer and fasting, testing and preparation. Then He began proclaiming this message: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” Our Lord’s words were not only an announcement, but also a challenge and a summons. Jesus offered two specific suggestions to those wishing to be a part of God’s Kingdom: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel”—in other words, turn from sin and begin living as one of His followers.

Even though we were committed to this way of life through our baptism, this is not the easiest way to live—and that’s why we need this time of Lent. Jesus says to us, “This is the time of fulfillment; the Kingdom of God is at hand”—in other words, right now God gives us the chance to grow in virtue and grace. Spiritual growth is not something to be put off until tomorrow; Jesus proclaims this with a sense of urgency, because we don’t know how long we’ll live and how many chances we’ll have to respond. Therefore, we might very wisely see these next six weeks as a time to use God’s grace in overcoming one of our personal weaknesses, and replacing it with a corresponding virtue. Jesus says to us, “Repent”—in other words, we must admit our sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness. Lent offers us many opportunities for this. Over the next six weeks we have the chance to take part in individual confessions, a penance service, stations of the cross, daily Mass, and eucharistic adoration; during this holy season we’re called to abstain from meat each Friday, while also performing acts of penance of our own choosing. All these things can express our personal desire for repentance. Jesus says to us, “Believe in the Gospel,” the good news of salvation—in other words, Lent is not only a time of sorrow and penitential acts, but also a time to rejoice in our faith and to live it out in a positive, committed way. To believe involves not only the mind, but also the heart, and because Our Lord’s message is “good news,” instead of only making sacrifices, we might also want to do something extra of a positive nature. For example, we might spend more time reading the Bible, or using the special booklets made available by our parish containing reflections for each day of Lent; we might spend a few extra minutes in prayer each day, or become more involved in our parish or community, or make a special point of doing a good deed each day.

Perry had to be locked up in a prison cell before he truly discovered that God was with him. We don’t need that sort of radical experience, but we probably do need to make more time and space for the Lord in our lives. God is always with us; Lent is our opportunity to make a special effort to be with Him. This is the time of fulfillment: a time to grow in grace, to admit our sins, and to put our faith into practice.

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Written by
Fr Joseph Esper