“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)
The boats of Jewish fisherman on the Lake of Gennesaret were unlikely to be large vessels and so their nets for catching fish were much smaller than the nets of our modern fishing crafts. So when Jesus challenges Peter and his crew to go out “into deep water”, he was not sending Peter out to drag up fish from the bottom of the sea but to trust Him in a precarious situation, especially since fishing in deep water is not particularly safe or sound practice when one is already tired.
Jesus being the Word and Wisdom of God was playing out for Peter a parable in real life so that he would understand that his abundant catch of fish, through the power of Jesus, serves as an analogy of catching men through that same power. This power of God which we call grace is present to all disciples of Christ who seek to benefit from it. Grace is no “force” or “energy”, but the power of the Holy Spirit freely gifted to those who believe in Jesus Christ and his saving mission. All baptized Catholics are called to this mission to add to the great catch of souls that will fill the school of heaven.
The fish are very slippery these days and our nets unsure. As to the fish, they are much more difficult to catch than, say, were the pagans-of-old, many who before converting to the faith held strongly to belief in the natural law, trusting in: the exclusivity of marriage, the modesty of the body, the biology of two genders, the respect of elders, the esteem of tradition, and deference to moral authority. As to our nets, they need to be sturdier and more sound to receive and catch our contemporary zigzagging fish. Such fish cannot be caught by simply floating a “welcome” sign. They must be sought in faith, seized by truth, and secured in love.
In order to put this vision to task we are using two images from American maritime painter Winslow Homer in this bulletin for this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. The first, Mending the Nets (1881), which is on page four, serves for us as an allegory that we need to set aside quiet time to reflect and even contemplate God’s will as we repair our Church and weave our approach to catching souls. The second, which adorns our bulletin cover, is entitled The Herring Net. This is what we do after we have rested and worshipped and been counseled by the Lord. It is indicated by robust action, the willingness to go out into the deep, and the fortitude to endure the dangerous waters amongst the raging waves that rock the boat of the world each and every day. This needed approach requires sharp spiritual senses, the resolution to drag the net over and over again, the steadiness of faith to not fall into sin or doubt, and the strong arms of Church teaching to carry home God’s capture. Let us pray and get to work.
–Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services