"Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4)
This past Thursday, I started to prepare my homily and pretty much had all of it sketched out in my head down to the wording and everything. On Friday, I was looking back at what I wrote three years ago on these readings and found that the first half of my homily was almost word for word what I had written back then. Talk about the Holy Spirit at work. Here is how I opened my homily three years ago:
“Ever since I can remember, my father has been taking me fishing. Now that I'm a priest, we usually do it in the summer when I'm on vacation. We've fished from piers, bridges, beaches, skiffs, big party boats and our own personal boat. We always go to the Florida Keys and never stray too far from shore choosing to fish the back country which is always fun. This past summer we were blessed with a week of unprecedented great weather. Great weather for fishing means having no wind. We've never spent a week with no wind in the Keys, but that is what the Good Lord gave us. The first morning we were there my father kicked me out of bed and simply said, "Let's go fishing." Again, not a drop of wind and my father plots a course on the GPS out to the Atlantic Ocean. Now I'm not necessarily afraid of the sea, I just have a profound respect for it. My father wanted to go fishing for big yellow-tail snapper, so we were going into very deep waters that were unknown to me and that were normally very rough and choppy. But not on this day. The sea was calm. As soon as we dropped the first line, we got a bite and then another and then...well it was as close to the miraculous catch in the Gospel as we were gonna get. We spent five and half hours out there with no wind, in the scorching sun, reeling in fish after fish. Unfortunately, because of Florida Wildlife Laws, we couldn't haul in enough fish to cause the boat to sink, but we did do enough damage out there that we were thoroughly satisfied with the catch. All because we put out into deep water. Even though it is unknown, there is always something joyful and satisfying to be found there.
The Lord is inviting us to go to the deep water this Sunday. We cannot accomplish much staying close to shore where we are comfortable and feel safe. We need to be challenged and that is what Jesus is doing today. We have to deepen our faith, abandon the status quo, throw our nets down to see what blessings we will catch.”
Another aspect of today’s gospel that struck me this week is Simon’s reaction to the miraculous catch. He acknowledges that he is in the presence of greatness and that he is a sinful man. Isaiah has a similar reaction in the first reading. Both Isaiah and Simon Peter have an encounter with the Divine, realize that they are not worthy of being called to minister, but ultimately God finds them both worthy. The Pope tweeted about this recognition of sinfulness this morning: “We must trust in the mighty power of God’s mercy. We are all sinners, but His grace transforms us and makes us new.” Only in the deep will we be transformed. Only when we get far away from the world will we recognize our sinfulness and realize that we are in need of conversion. Only out there in the deep will we reap the rewards and be immersed in God’s abundant blessings.