Biblical readings: Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8 | Psalm 138 | 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 | Luke 5:1-11
This is my homily for 7 February 2010. Feel free to respond with comments. To view the readings, go to http://www.usccb.org/nab and click “February 7” in the calendar.
[__01.] If we were to go out on a boat or sailing (maybe not today), we would be asked to follow certain special instructions.
To do things we might normally not have to do:
*** wear a life preserver;
*** walk – don’t run – on board the boat;
All of these are special instructions. Why?
For safety. That’s why it’s called a life preserver, right? And, we are conscious of the dangers because we respect the power of the natural forces – waves, tides, ocean, storms.
Sometimes we forget how powerful nature is. These natural forces can bring benefit or harm.
And, the message of the Gospel today is about the power of nature, about the power of God working through nature. In the Gospel – and the Bible – we see the Lord doing great things:
** fire on Mountain Sinai when Moses is receiving the 10 Commandments
** the burning bush
** and, the parting of the Red Sea. The parting of the Red Sea in the Exodus is the water miracle par excellence.
In fact, water is typically the site of God’s visible and miraculous achievements. The mountain, on the other hand, is typically the place of solitude with God.
[__02.] This is also true in Christ’s life; for example:
** Jesus walks on water; Peter will try to walk on water too, but only makes it a few steps, having forgotten the special instructions to follow Christ who is leading him.
** also, on the lake, Jesus will calm a storm, bringing and end to the thunder and waves.
** in this Gospel, Jesus is responsible for a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11)
The apostles are taught about the power of Jesus and of nature. The catch of fish is very meaningful. And, it inspires more than simply respect for nature in Peter the Apostle.
[__03.] The miraculous catch of fish also brings a crisis.
A crisis means something is going wrong; and, now, we have to examine how we are going to survive.
Peter is also trying to figure out how to preserve his life. Peter knows that something is not right.
Up to now, as a fisherman, he has been able to float along the surface of the lake quite easily. Now, the water is coming to surround him, to engulf him.
Simon Peter and his friends have been trying to catch fish all night. They are unsuccessful.
[__04.] Along comes Jesus of Nazareth who has no specific experience, no resume as a fisherman, no net, no line and, certainly, no boat.
In fact, the episode in the Gospel begins when Peter steps into Peter’s boat, steps into Peter’s life.
In your life, and my life, in our relationships, Jesus is also trying to step into our lives, into our boats.
[__05.] Suppose you feel some anxiety in making a decision. You know what the right choice is. However you may be tempted to do a little bit less or take a shortcut.
At these times, we also hear the Holy Spirit – through our consciences – telling us what the right thing is to do. This may be the call to do the right / honest thing under difficult circumstances.
This can shake things up, rocking the boat.
[__06.] A boat is rocked, caused to pitch or sway, when someone steps on board. And, Jesus may be stepping into your boat and my boat, reminding us of the need for repentance, conversion, the need to turn back to him for help, healing, forgiveness.
[__07.] When Peter hauls in the net with the fish, he is not simply catching something to eat for dinner.
Rather, he is also starting to “catch on” to a new reality. And, in the beginning, this is a crisis.
Peter does not want to set sail on these particular waters. Peter wants to stay on the land at least temporarily.
Wanting to stay on the land, Peter is moved to turn Jesus away, saying “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)
[__08.] Peter is already successful in one way, as a fisherman. But, now, he is being asked to do something else. And, this is the crisis
I often want and you may often want not too much change. We don’t want to rock the boat. We don’t want our boat rocked by anyone.
But, the Lord is doing is rocking the boat, causing it (and you and me) to search for balance.
Now, maybe, if we were to own a large enough vessel, we would prevent this movement. Perhaps, a gigantic cruise ship. On the other hand, we are also cautioned about being too immersed, submerged in material things. This could cause us to sink. It’s better to have a smaller boat where the Lord can still touch us and move us more easily.
[__09.] We are being asked to go out into deeper water. What is the deeper water?
Maybe the deeper water is a transition from, say, one school to another ___ from one job to another __ or from working to retirement ___ and most profoundly, the transition after the death of a person we love.
We may wander around on the dock or beach, wondering what to do after the death of someone we love. Meanwhile, Jesus is inviting us forward. This often happens through our loved ones who help us during a crisis.
[__10.] Jesus is trying to work with what we have, to board our boats. Jesus wants to work with what we have and who we already are.
[__11.] This is why Jesus says to Peter, “I will make you fishers of men.” (Luke 5:10)
In other words, I will use the talents you – Peter - already have (and you and me here too), I will encounter you as the authentic person you already are to take you out into the deep waters, to take you out into the deep waters of God’s love and mercy, and into the depths of your own talents and into the depths of your own life. And, seek him for stability on the water.