09 Feb 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father Stéphane Pouliot
February 7th, 2016
What happens when we let Jesus get into the boat of our lives and we let him modify our plans for the day ? Let us find out.
The day was a busy one for Jesus. The crowd was pressing in on him, eager to hear God speaking to them in human flesh.
Fishermen were nearby, washing their nets, and unaware of what would soon happen.
Are we those fishermen, with Ash Wednesday on the horizon of our upcoming week, busy with our lives and unaware of what God intends to do for us this Lent?
This is how the Mercy of God works. It waits patiently for an opening, and at the most opportune moment, it seeks to pierce our resistance with a sudden invasion of our privacy. This invasion of Grace is not aggressive, but it is intentional. Jesus did not fill out forms in triple duplicates before getting into Simon’s boat. He did not give Simon heads up, nor did Jesus beg Simon to consider the offer carefully.
God knows that we are, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, men and women of “unclean lips”, living “among a people of unclean lips” (cf. Isaiah 6:5). In the words of the psalmist, God stretches out his hand and with His right hand delivers us (cf. Psalm 138:7). By the grace of God, we become what we are, and may it always be that His Grace towards us not be in vain (cf.1 Corinthians 15:10) due to our lack of cooperation with it.
This is the key point of today’s Gospel. Jesus did invite himself into Simon’s boat, but Simon let him in, did not object, did not request Him to leave, but rather gave Grace the chance to change His life.
This Lent, we start on Wednesday with a day of fasting and abstinence from meat, and we may not look forward to this. However, fasting and receiving the ashes on that day is showing up at the shore of the lake where Jesus is about to preach, washing our nets, waiting for an invasion of Grace.
When Jesus gave Simon Peter a new fishing plan, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:5), it must at first have appeared absurd. Jesus does not look like an accomplished fisherman, he who learned from Joseph how to be a carpenter.
Simon is exhausted from having worked all night long. So can we, after years of trying to overcome an addiction, a self-destructive habit, or after months of not daring to put out into the deep waters of a life with God, content to stay in the shallow waters of a mediocre, “It will have to do”, prayer life.
“Yet, if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5) Simon Peter replies. Those five words “Yet, if you say so”, can become our Lenten motto, our constant reminder not to settle for anything less than the great adventure of having God invite himself into the boat of our lives, and lead us to the deep waters where an abundant miraculous catch of fish awaits us.
This miraculous catch of fish shows us the profound blessings which will become known to us once we trust God and do what He told us to do.
Prayer, fasting, almsgiving, three simple Lenten nets made ready for a miraculous catch once we follow Jesus into the deep waters of a life where He becomes the centre.
Prayer involves a sacrifice of time, fasting a sacrifice of food and drink, almsgiving a sacrifice of money.
Jesus calls us to invest our time, our appetite and our money into His Kingdom. The returns will be out of this world.
There is more. As soon as Simon agrees to put out his boat into the deep water and let down his nets, “they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink” (Luke 5:6-7).
We are not alone this Lent. We are all partners into this adventure into the deep waters of God’s very intimate life. We will need each other this Lent, and when one of our sisters weakens in her resolve, she will know that she can receive from us the encouragement to begin again her broken Lenten resolutions. We will need each other this Lent, and when one of our brothers has the sinking feeling that this is all too much transformation for his sinful self, as Simon Peter said to Jesus (cf. Luke 5:8), we won’t leave him alone.
We will tell him and her: “You belong in the boat, in the deep waters, with Jesus.” “Yet if you say so” Jesus… “Yet if you say so”, nothing is impossible with You, even my own transformation from sinner to saint.
I am deeply indebted to Bishop Barron for his homily on the 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C, this year (2016) : http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/homily/ .