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. I know of very few retirees who really stop doing anything, as most of them I know serve their families, volunteer and take 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. It would seem our culture suggests that our elderly don’t have anything of value to offer. Even if we are confined to 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, a neighbor, or just through intercessory prayer (asking God to help someone) is all part of using the essential dignity with which we were created.
Years ago, when I had worked as a public employee counseling adults with disabilities toward employment, I noticed the greatest tragedy that beheld almost every individual on my caseload suffered from depression; perhaps due to the fact that 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. You matter. God made you to participate; He 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.
Gospel LK 5:1-11
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.