Feb 6, 2016
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The language of fishing in the gospel is not a simple observation of particular events. In the light of our faith it is a metaphor for the work of Jesus and a picture of what God is doing through His Church.
There is a long history of the Church being described as a large boat. We are not a museum ship, nor are we board this mighty tied up old vessel that has seen better days. Christ Himself is still gives orders to set sail. Whether he stands on the shoreline and calls out to us, at rest in one of the cabins, or at the helm, there is work to be done, places to go, battles to fight, new worlds to be discovered. Reflecting on the Gospel this Sunday, what course does Christ plot for us. We are to be "fishers of men".
"Catching men alive". How? Christ gives us the grace to attract. That grace of attraction is manifested in so many beautiful ways: through the preaching of the Gospel, through the beauty of the liturgy, through the gentle power of the sacraments, but especially, through the witness of men and women, of families whose lives are lived with a sense of hope, that Christ is with us every part of the journey. Admittedly, we can find ourselves naturally afraid to what lies beyond the horizon. Sometimes, be might be afraid of storms, getting lost, even encountering pirate ships (!) Maybe we would prefer staying closer to land. But the first prayer we made in public during the Mass was: "Keep your family safe, O Lord, with unfailing care, that relying on the hope of heavenly grace, we may be defended always by your protection" (Collect)
Christians we should not be afraid, nor dwell in fear. We are told by Christ to go out into the deep waters in the same way as Noah took his ark into uncharted territory. Each one of us has a responsibility for the salvation of each other, even of the world. Be courageous, Christ is with us, not only in the valley of darkness, but also when we must enter into the storm. Remember, Christ can walk on the water, and so can we, as long as we keep Christ always in view, and never despair.
And this brings us to the example of St. Peter the fisherman. Peter was reluctant to change his ways. He had a system of fishing that was, for him, predictable and well rehearsed. But, we also discover through the reading of the New Testament Scriptures, that we was not a very good fisherman in the traditional sense. It was Christ Himself who did all the fishing for Him! If Peter allowed his pride to get the better of him, he would have blatantly disobeyed Our Lord when He instructed him to sail out into the deep water and prepare for a catch of fish. Underneath his rough exterior, Peter allowed the voice of Christ to penetrate his heart. And although Christ was telling him to goes against his natural instincts and what the text book said, Peter obeyed the voice of the Lord, even though he did not, for him, make sense.
Did Peter and the fishermen apostles know what would be their future work and responsibilities? Could they have even dreamt of their lives beyond their little village? We get a hint when Saint Peter, overwhelmed at the thought of what would be expected of him, presumed wrongly that he must carry the burden all by himself and fears he does not have the strength. Standing in the light of God, even in His shadow, our own unworthiness, helplessness becomes so obvious. St. Peter needs, like you and me, to be assured that Christ will never abandon us.
To be a Christian, to be on board with the Church and to heed to the direction Our Lord steers us, we have to be courageous, daring, trusting. What does this mean? Maybe it is to leave behind at times, our little well rehearsed lives and, at the Lord's command to venture our into the unknown - whatever that might be.
Maybe to go out into the deep waters is a call to a more deeper prayer life, leaving superficially behind. Maybe, it is the call to not be lazy or complacent in our family duties and responsibilities to our brothers and sisters. To go out, at the Lord's command, into the depths of the ocean, might be to finally open up in confession to a sinful past that we want to leave behind. God's mercy is bigger than the vastness of the oceans. His love reaches even the darkest, murky waters of our lives. And for this reason, Christ tells us not to be afraid - to have faith in the grace He gives us and in the strength of His Church, a sacred vessel that can hold the entire world and still never be overwhelmed.
Let us pray for courage, strength and endurance, with the assurance that God's mercy and grace will always endure.
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