This weekend’s gospel teaches us about the abundant blessings that await us in the “deep water”, a timely indication of the need for deep prayer, especially just having finished our silent retreat which was themed around hope. Traditionally, we use the first Encounter With Christ meeting after our retreat to talk about the beautiful things from the weekend that helped us understand more about God and ourselves, and this discussion naturally leads us toward mission and this “case study” of living faith in Christ inspired us all.
Two newlyweds decided that in addition to being open to children right away, they should be open to fostering children as well. They feel that God called them together to serve Him in love, and that began the minute they said “yes” to Him and each other on the altar. Our culture tells us to wait a few years and “have time alone together”, but they are seeking to provide foster care for children immediately because they feel blessed and ready to share those blessings with children who need it.
Earn the right to do nothing?
On retreat, we also discussed the idea of what “retiring” looks like. Long ago, when the retirement age was instituted, it was more indicative of the vitality of the human person during that era. Now, we have many older adults living well into their eighties and nineties and remaining active and productive (thanks be to God). We discussed why, at “65”, we live in a culture that encourages people to stop living their lives? We may have 20 or 30 more active years where we are expected to keep producing and sharing the great wisdom, formation, and education that we have stored up. We are at the height of earthly wisdom. There is nothing wrong with slowing down or being a bit more leisurely, but surely we are not supposed to stop being the perfectly seasoned pot in which we “stew” the next generation. There are few people I have actually met who really stop do anything as most serve their families and pour themselves out into volunteering and leadership roles in our churches and community. These people are the beautiful example to which we can turn when we feel we can no longer pull off a 40 hour work week physically or mentally. I feel it was more a concern of the culture dictating that our elderly don’t have anything of value to offer. And even if we are in bed all day due to illness, we can participate in the mystical body of Christ by pouring our hearts into praying for others.
Investing love into the lives of those around you, whether it be a foster child or a grandchild, or the neighbor next door, or just through intercessory prayer (asking God to help someone) is all of the essential dignity with which we were created.
Working as a public employee counseling adults with disabilities toward employment, I noticed the greatest tragedy that beheld almost every individual I met on that job was the fact that perhaps someone had told them (or they felt from the world around them) that they no longer had purpose or meaning because they were “broken” or unable to sustain gainful employment. If I only had understood and communicated then what I understand now: that a person’s essential dignity is in being a child of God, created with great love and care in every cell, not just our abilities, talents, looks, physicality, etc. True peace, joy and fulfillment resonate just there; how I long to go back and encourage those entrusted to me with this understanding.
Along with this Sunday’s gospel, as I prayed about the fostering newlyweds discussed at Encounter, and then remembered the discussion about the “lake house retirees” that were mentioned on retreat, it all culminated in my mind into one message; keep going into deep prayer, then set out to serve God and the world with your abundant blessings for the whole of your life. Whether you are a newly formed embryo or a 98 year-old bed-ridden elderly person, you have great human dignity that cannot be denied to you by any law or social supposition. You count and you matter; God needs you and so do we. Your value as a child of God makes your existence precious; but to understand how to live that out, you must seek Him first.
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening
to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
Put out into deep water…
Deep water represents deep prayer and intimacy with God, and where the abundant blessings of God lie waiting for us. Often the deep is a scary and dark place on the seas; we must exude complete trust in order to get to the well of goodness (like the fish weighing down the boats, beyond expectation and understanding).
The deep also has width and breadth; an open place where we can illicit the help of others, as the apostles worked together, and their efforts came together to produce great excitement among them that, with Christ’s gifts, drew more souls into him.
The word “put” implies the contribution of effort. They were told to cast the nets; Jesus did not do it for them. We must take a “no excuses” view of the necessity of our participation into God’s plan of salvation for all people.
Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing…
Not by our own efforts do we succeed in the conversion of hearts; whether it be our own or another’s. It is by the grace of God that hearts turn toward Him, but the opportunities to be a light in the world have been entrusted to us and He is counting on our human participation. If we set out to do God’s will before asking Him what that will is, we often muddle things up and take the long road around to get our destiny back on track. God can handle our mistakes, but time is precious and so is each and every person He places in our midst today.
Good, better, best…
Seeking God first each day, then be open to letting Him work in us. Many times our efforts and intentions are good, but often we can “do much good” which keeps us from doing “what is best” and that is all the enemy needs sometimes to get us away from God’s work.
Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man…
None of us are worthy of the perfect love of God, but nonetheless He gives it to us at the moment of our conception until we are united with Him at the end of our lives. That is why every moment of our lives count, the last breath we take may be the very sanctifying breath that saves us from an eternity without God. We should never end a life early for any reason. Some say even Judas could have been restored at his last breath, begging God for forgiveness and the fullness of God’s mercy poured out to him in return.
No one is worthy; but everyone has worth. Every moment has worth, Every effort, intention and prayer carries great value. This gospel reading shows us that not by ourselves, but through our faith in Christ and the goodness of God’s creation are we loved and we matter.