Pastor's Desk Notes

February 18, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

In Mark’s typical fashion, the story of the forty days Jesus spends in the desert is recounted in a rapid-fire pace, clear on what happened, and short on details. The forty days are summarized by three things: Jesus was tempted by Satan, was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to Him. Each of those things seems to deserve some attention, but Mark powers past them, perhaps to allow someone else to tell that story or to leave those details to our imagination. Rather than focusing on our Lord’s experience in the desert, Mark wants to get to the heart of the matter, which is the beginning of Jesus’ preaching ministry. The first words of our Lord’s first sermon stand out even more: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

This is the time of fulfillment! Everything the Scriptures have prepared us for, everything the prophets have foretold, everything God has promised to His people – now is the time when it will be fulfilled. Jesus lays claim to every prophecy spoken about Him in these simple words. The time of fulfillment He speaks of is both a present reality and an enduring moment. Historically, our Lord fulfills every prophecy spoken: the incarnation happened, our sins were forgiven on the cross, and death was defeated once for all. While we can point to all of this as events that occurred in the past, there is a reason that our Lord’s words resonate for us in the present tense: “This is the time of fulfillment.”

While forty days before we reach the goal of Lent might seem like a long-distant future, the liturgical observance of this holy season reminds us that the time of fulfillment is still present for us now. On Wednesday, we received ashes and were called to repentance. With that call came the reminder that Jesus walks among us, that His saving power is available to us here and now, and that the words of the Gospel are not spoken in an historic vacuum, but are uttered by the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ. Spoken for eternity, in this present moment we hear the voice of Jesus calling us to be disciples.

The three primary disciplines of Lent are a great help in remembering the fact that this is the time of fulfillment. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not aspirational goals or past activities. They are, instead, disciplines with which we actively engage in the here and now. Prayer is our daily conversation with God. We are invited to meet Him each day in silence, in Scripture, in the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist and confession. Fasting can be a daily practice for us, too, as we mortify our appetites and senses, making room for Jesus in our hearts and uniting our sufferings, here and now. to His offering on the Cross which was made once for all. Almsgiving reminds us that Jesus remains with us in the distressing disguise of the poor, and that whatever we do for the least of our brothers, we do for Him (cf. Mt. 25:40). As we engage these disciplines in Lent, may they echo our Lord’s words, reminding us to find Him here and now, for this is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.


Fr. Sam