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” (Lk 5:4-5).
Faith is to trust in God and believe that what he tells us is true. On our own initiative and will power we are limited as finite beings as to what we can understand and do. Today’s Gospel reading provides an example of this. Simon had been fishing all night with no results. Simon Peter follows Jesus’ command to go back out and put into the deep, and Simon not only accomplishes what he originally set out to do, but he also did so beyond anything he had ever imagined! When we follow God’s direction and initiative all things are possible for us as well.
God’s initiative and grace enter our lives daily as Jesus entered Simon’s boat. Do we have eyes to see, ears to hear, and a willingness to listen and follow the initiative of Jesus? Remember the rich man who had followed all the commandments, but when Jesus invited him to sell all and come and follow him, he could not do it? Simon the magician saw the works of Philip, Peter, and John and wanted to buy the power of the Holy Spirit to heal but was rebuked. Turning away from Jesus’ invitation or seeking to manipulate Jesus for our own personal gain will not bring us the fulfillment that we seek.
We need to follow the example of Mary, who when the archangel Gabriel shared God’s message with her that she was to bear a child, even though she did not understand how this could be, Mary trusted. She conceived in her womb, through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the God-Man, the incarnate Son of God, Jesus the Christ. May we also follow such examples as Peter, James, and John, who said yes to lowering their nets, even though they did not see the point, yet they followed and were amazed. Then led by Peter’s humility and contrition, they “left everything” and followed Jesus. They went on to announce the Gospel of the Lord and caught people for the Kingdom of heaven.
Do we have the humility to follow Jesus, even when we may feel or see no point in his request? Jesus has a plan for us, as he did for Mary and the Apostles. He will give us the means to accomplish what he calls us to do. In that quiet place in our soul, in the stillness of our hearts, Jesus is inviting us to follow him, to put out into the deep water. What we may hear may seem unbelievable, or insignificant, we may experience anxiety or fear. Yet, let us take the risk and follow Jesus where he leads, where he would have us go, and what he would have us do.
About seventeen years ago, I remember taking a leave of absence after teaching in public school for five years. After time away from teaching, I thought about returning to the classroom, but instead of returning to the public school system I wanted to explore the idea of teaching in a Catholic school. It was mid-year, so I was just looking for a substitute teaching position. After a few initial inquiries, I received no bites, then JoAnn recommended me reaching out to Rosarian Academy a school about 30-40 miles from us, my initial reaction was like Peter. I resisted because of the potential drive, but JoAnn persisted and I followed her lead and made an initial call, received an interview, and not only ended up getting a full-time substitute position for the remainder of the year, I was hired back full time at the middle school level for the following school year and taught at Rosarian for another wonderful eight years.
Jesus can guide us directly as he did with Peter or he can guide us through others as he did with me through JoAnn. We need to allow our hearts and minds to be open to where God is leading us and when we do so, we will not only be happy, but we will find fulfillment and meaning in our lives, such that it overflows to others. I thank JoAnn for her years of support of me and my vocational path. Her guidance and love have been an instrumental and integral part of helping me to be who I am today.