February 10: Racing with the Wind (5 C)

“While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret…He told Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets.” Luke 5:1-11.

In this passage from Saint Luke’s gospel, for the very first time, the gospel writer mentions that Jesus’s words are the “word of God.“

Somehow this youthful rabbi, this remarkable man, Jesus is a bearer of God’s word. He speaks to people and to us – with a clarity of vision that knows no bounds.

At the lakeside, Jesus instructs Peter where to cast nets, even though Peter and his friends were expert fishermen; and Jesus, after all, was a carpenter by trade.

When you’re inexperienced at fishing, giving others free advice to fishermen, to my mind, is a bit risky.

More Jesus’s instruction to Peter was to go out into the deep water. Such a command could have some degree of challenge or even danger. It’s one of those moments when any one of us might say: “What have I gotten myself into?” Or, “Maybe I’m in over my head.”

One such challenging experience comes to my mind at the time when I first moved to California, some thirty years ago. A former student, Jack, invited me to be the eighth man in a weekly competitive sailboat race on the San Francisco Bay.

The starting point for the dozen Olson 30 racers begins with the sound blast of a horn and on a course in the bay nearby the Oakland Bay Bridge and to a buoy in the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge and nearby the town of Sausalito.

The wind is the challenge, and going head-on into this force of nature can be brutal. Your emotions range from looking at the beautiful sights of San Francisco on the port side or left, to the impressive speed. Mostly you feel the rolling of waves and the continuing back and forth adjustment of the rigging of the sails to gain an advance against the other challengers.

It was a race after all, and here I am with a team of competitors that, for all their looks, could be playing football or rugby. This form of sailing was like climbing a mountain of wind. Holding on for life, I had doubts and even the lingering fear of capsizing or my falling into the bay. What have I gotten myself into? Maybe I’m over my head?

Later you arrive at the marker or buoy that indicates we must turn around with the wind behind us and head back to the starting point. Suddenly, and almost miraculously, it’s bright and smooth sailing with the dance of one sailor in a delicate dance to attach the colorful spinnaker at the very prow of the boat. Then, we come to the finish line, and the sound of the horn to mark the end of the race.

As I recovered, almost an hour later, the race was exhilarating but all so terrifying. So, I know my limits, I’m not the right candidate for bungee jumping or attempting a parachute jump out of an airplane. But there are moments when you ask yourself: What have I gotten myself into?

All three of our principal characters drawn from today’s readings were people asking the same question:

  • Isaiah had a stammer in his speech and yet moves from a court official to an eloquent prophet.
  • Saul was a Roman citizen and Jew who persecuted the early disciples before becoming Paul, one of the Lord’s ardent Apostles.
  • Simon was a fisherman who, like Peter, became the first of the Apostles and the leader for the community of early Christians.

Nonetheless, Jesus speaks person-to-person, heart–to- heart with divine authority. Jesus was capable of drawing people from one walk of life, and enlisting them for his journey of faith, regardless of background, and often those persons were in transition or on the periphery.

What are those moments of transition in your life when you have to ask yourself: What have I gotten myself into? Or maybe I’m in over my head?

It’s then we must listen to Jesus’s words to Peter: “Do not be afraid, from now on, you will be catching men.”

In following the Lord, Luke reminds us that our fears and doubts can also expose us to a new purpose, clearer direction, and the rich experience of a community of friends.

Luke ends this episode with the words: “When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.”

Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA.





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