First Sunday of Lent
February 21, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria Cortes, F.S.C.E., Chaplain,
Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15).
The Lenten season is a time for us to grow in our understanding of the riches hidden in Christ: “This is the time of fulfillment” (Mk 1:15). Lent is a journey toward the Paschal Mystery. In the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ, we find the fulfilment of our humanity.
“I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). Christ came to fulfill God’s plan, to bring all things to completion. Christ is progressively filling the universe with his fullness. Saint Paul says: “For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19). Fulfillment is a mark of God’s presence among us. In today’s second reading, Saint Peter says: “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God” (1 Pt 3:18). Through the Holy Spirit and the Church, Christ leads all things to the Father.
Only Christ can truly satisfy our desire for happiness: “For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily” (Col 2:9). We cannot conceive of God’s fullness. It completely exceeds anything we could have imagined.
Fulfilment is the experience of being loved by the Father in an infinite and unconditional way. Since the day of our baptism, we have been the sons and daughters of God! Today’s refrain of the responsorial psalm states: “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” The covenant is God’s initiative but it is up to us to keep it.
In the second reading, Saint Peter says that the waters of the great flood were a sign of the waters of baptism, that make an end of sin and a new beginning of goodness. The flood “prefigured baptism, which saves you now” (1 Pt 3:21). God is saving us now! “This is the time of fulfillment.” In the first reading, God tells Noah: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you” (Gen 9:8). Salvation is not an idea or emotion but rather God’s powerful action. We have already been saved but we still need to experience salvation to the full.
It is hard for us to believe that now is the time of fulfillment. This does not mean that the circumstances are good but that God is acting and his plan is being fulfilled. Our consciences must be awakened through the action of the Holy Spirit for us to see that God is making all things new (cf. Rev 21:5).
This is the time of fulfillment, even if we do not see it. Something prevents us from perceiving all things as being fulfilled in Christ. There is a “leaven of malice” that needs to be cast out, a mentality around us and in us that opposes the instauration of the kingdom of God. Satan tempts us with skepticism, lies and doubts. However, Jesus conquered all temptations in the desert, “overturning all the snares of the ancient serpent” (preface).
Repent and believe in the gospel! We truly need to believe that Christ fulfils our lives. Conversion of our hearts is needed. Seeing the present as the time of fulfillment is a grace to be sought. In the cross, all things are fulfilled and in the Eucharist, we have access to the fullness of life.
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days” (Mk 1:12). Like Jesus, let us be driven by the Holy Spirit during Lent. May the desert of our Lenten observance be a happy time to experience Christ as the One who fulfills our humanity. Amen.