Feb. 7: Fifth Sunday

“Jesus said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch'” Luke 5:1-11.

fishToday’s gospel is a wonderful prelude to Lent. We are days away from Ash Wednesday and this powerful season is a form of “boot camp” for Catholics and Christians alike to take a good look inward to our spiritual lives, but also to set our sights on new and challenging ways to advance this season of grace in the lives of others. Let me explain.

I have a friend of mine, Jack, a former student from my high school teachings days back in N.J.,who with wife Karen and son John are really good friends. Over the years, I’ve been at their home in Half Moon Bay for holidays, Super Bowls, etc. You get the picture. They are what I would call “avid fishermen.” Not only do they have a highly equipped boat, but over the years they have help to restore historic boats in the Half Moon Bay harbor. As well as donating their time and the boat for fund raising on behalf of important charities.

Here’s the story. They had just purchased a brand new boat, a “Grady White,” and asked me to bless it. Now I’m into blessings but not really fishing; not my thing. Mostly long hours and not much by way of fish — had been my experience. Nonetheless, what are friends for but to share their skills, mine is more spiritual, and less knowledgeable about salmon or tuna.

So I brought all my powers of prayer to bless the boat, and then we went for an afternoon of leisurely fishing off the San Mateo county coast. Jack anchored the boat, and we waited.

What I discovered that day, was that my friend’s boat had a substantial advantage over the fish. Their high tech boat, and Jack is in the Silicon Valley high tech business, is so equipped with radar, sonar, and cameras — that, on clear day, you can see the fish below on the TV monitors, all gathered in a nearby reef.  The fish that day did not have a chance.

Even I got into it and caught all sorts of these sea creature. We had great fun that day. And you can see a photo of me on my website — holding up my catch of the day, along with these dear friends of mine. Now what the point here?

First of all, if Peter and the Apostles could get a day on Jack’s boat, that would be a haul of fish, indeed.

While Peter and the Apostles appear to be fearful of the deep water, I hope at some point, they understood the immense power at their disposal in Jesus, and that their “fishing for men” would ultimately bring them great satisfaction, and even fun.

That’s what Pope Francis calls the “joy of the gospel.” And like Jesus, our holy father, is telling us to get out into the deep waters, for the sake of Christ, and the gospel and for the very purpose of evangelization.

And, by the way, the pope is not encouraging a “re-evangelization,” rather with the powers of personal witness, and maybe use of the new media technology, he is calling for a “new evangelization,” in order to spark even greater efforts like Saint Paul’s comment today that we must “work harder.” Not the “same old” or simply maintaining the status quo, rather a genuine rethinking and a personal reaching out to those on the periphery who may be disaffected, lost and in need of direction and purpose in life.

So getting “on board this fishing boat” requires all Catholic institutions to take stock of their mission and direction. Here’s only one example of how the Knights of Columbus, a great Catholic organization had responded to Pope Francis.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson writes:

“When Saint John Paul II spoke of the new evangelization he explained that the content of evangelization would not be new, but that this would be an evangelization ‘new in its ardor, methods and expression.’ This is the same dynamic  that guides our mission today. The ‘content’ of the Knights of Columbus has not changed….But what will change is the ‘expression’ of that service so that our work may become even more relevant and effective.”

Carl Anderson and the Knights are beginning an initiative to better support the domestic Church and help strengthen parish life. Again, they are getting on board with the broader aims of Pope Francis’s agenda for the Church in the contemporary era.

Most important, Pope Francis speaks of the need for greater attention to our personal experience of Jesus. He is less concerned about the doctrinal formation of “precision theology.” This pope does not want a stuffy Church or a “museum of memories,” but rather a place and a community where we can ask ourselves candidly — what might we do on that boat with Jesus and the Apostles? Are we frightened in the deep waters of life? Are we unsure of our direction? Or are we simply sea-sick?

Instead, we come to Jesus and the task ahead — so eager to bring the gospel to new members, and for the salvation of the world.

A parish community, like ours at San Carlos Cathedral,  knows the Lord:

  • By inviting us to fish anew, by getting involved in his words and deeds, and into the lives of people;
  • By being supportive of all persons from our seniors to our youngest members. Also, by bringing a great sense of community to Monterey, with fun and maybe some humor at events like our annual Friday Lent Fish dinners sponsored by the Italian American Foundation during these Fridays in Lent. Here we celebrate the “joy of the Gospel” person to person, heart to heart;
  • Also, by welcoming new parishioners in the RCIA program, or by welcoming new military families whose service to our country, we greatly respect.
  • But most of all, by celebrating Mass and the sacraments here with great devotion in music and reading that underscore who were are and what we might be in the name of Christ.

So let us pray for one another this Lent that we may yield a bounty of fish in this and every season of our lives. This much we owe one another, says G.K. Chesterton who writes: “We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”




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