Dear Brothers & Sisters,
This weekend’s Gospel is very dear to me and to my vocation. We hear Jesus jumping into Peter’s boat and ordering him to go to deep waters, where after the miraculous catch, he invites Peter to become a fisher of men.
The first element of this Gospel is quite challenging, and at times frightful. When we go to the beach, we always feel very safe when we stay at waist depth. Even though there might be some current, we can stand our ground. When we go deeper to the point of losing our foothold, then our natural reaction is to panic (even if it’s a controlled feeling). This is a survival response that we are no longer “safe”. That fear can be overcome when our swimming skills are strong to the point that we feel safe. When Jesus invites Peter, and by extension all of us, to go to deeper waters, he wants us to no longer rely on our strength or our securities, but to risk leaning on him alone. There is always an undertone that unless we risk through God, things won’t change. To experience following the command of Christ, we have to leave our comfort behind, and experience relying on Christ’s command. It is similar to when a child goes to into deep water for the first time with his parents. Although it may be frightening, uncomfortable, and unreasonable, the presence of parents calms the child to the point to where he allows himself to be carried in their arms.
Once we go into the deeper waters, we realize that the crowds are left behind, and now it is only Jesus and us. We don’t have friends, family, or relatives around, it is just us. There is another level of fear, when we are alone. But then once again, we need to realize that we are not alone. Christ is with us. Then comes the best part when Jesus tells something that does not make sense at all, to throw the nets once again just as he instructed Peter who had been trying fishing the whole night.
Christ speaks to us, whether giving directions, pushing us to do something, or indicating what we should do. But it’s very hard to comprehend. The problem is not what he is telling us, it is how we receive it. Going back to an example with children, when they ask questions about what they see, such as why the sky is blue, it is difficult for them to understand what is beyond their reasoning. Imagine how impossible it is to tell a child that the sky is not blue if their senses tell them otherwise. Once more, Christ invites us to rely on him instead of ourselves. It is an act of trust. There is a definition of faith in the Jerusalem Bible that defines it as “an act of faith and of self-abandonment by which people no longer rely on their own strength and policies but commit themselves to the power and guiding word of him in whom they believe.” Therefore, if you feel called to something that may not make sense to you, but it comes from Christ, be not afraid of following that voice.
Lastly, the call of Peter to become a fisher of men is fundamental to his vocation. This call is usually used for all the people of God to become missionaries. Traditionally, it was focused on the vocation to the priesthood. There are many men who have felt this call, and have indeed become fishers of men. But a question that I would like for us to reflect on is how can we participate actively in the promotion of vocations. How can we help the men who are struggling with their call, or even those on the path to becoming priests? Is it about this that Christ invites all of us to go to deeper waters, coming out of our comfort zone? Does he invite us to do an act of obedience or faith to put into action his command? As individuals, parishioners of IC, members of the Archdiocese, or Catholics, the vocation to the priesthood is something that impacts all of us, and those that will come after us. Cardinal Sean has repeated many times, “The life of the Church and its vocations are everyone's business,” I would like to invite all of you to think about these questions posed to us this weekend and to see how we respond to Christ. Peter when he arrived ashore, “left everything [behind] and followed [Jesus].”
Father Steven Clemence