Sunday Reflection - 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Posted: Fri, 04 Feb 2022 10:32
The request of Jesus in today's gospel, 'put out into deeper waters' is something that we need to hear especially in these pandemic times. These past few years have seen us needing to draw from reservoirs of strength and integrity that, in some instances, we never knew we had. Covid-19 brought such misery and heartache to so many across the world, as we were forced to move out of established comfort zones and move out into the unknown.
For these past two weeks, our gospel has helped us to understand the dramatic move that Jesus had to make, as he began his public ministry. According to tradition, Jesus led a hidden life in Nazareth for about thirty years. It was thirty years of the ordinary: school, friends, playing, apprenticeship, carpentry and family life. Today's gospel sees Jesus at the ancient Palestinian equivalent to Heathrow Airport. Traders, pilgrims and tourists from across the known world, would cross the Sea of Galilee, bringing spices, beautiful cloth, produce and new ideas to the people of Israel. Like Heathrow in pre-pandemic times, cities like Capernaum were heaving with crowds, visitors and locals alike. Jesus is in the middle of this bustling throng and sees an inventive way to preach his good news and be true to his Nazareth mandate. He gets into the boat of a surprised and curious Peter and casts out from the shore, preaching to the assembled crowds.
When he had finished his homily, and the crowds had dispersed, he makes the challenge to Peter: 'put out into deeper water.' He asks Peter to take a risk and try something different—the carpenter telling the fisherman! Peter observes that they had been fishing all night and caught nothing—except a cold! Jesus is inviting Peter and his expert colleagues to be part of the amazing reign of God that can be found very often in the most unusual of places. The result of that trust is that Peter has a most amazing catch that fills two boats to sinking point. Luke recounts a miracle that seem to be a constant across all four gospels: miracles of plenty that give more than enough. With God there is no meanness or stinginess that we can do often experience from others.
In these times, we need that generosity and understanding. We need that openness to try new ways of being Church that the Synod is seeking to explore. In the face of the total goodness of Jesus, a reflection of that divine unconditional love, Peter is all too aware of his human weakness. He begs Jesus to leave him, but that is not how God works. God comes to us in our weakness and problems, and, if these pandemic days, when we have been made more aware of our own human frailty, then perhaps some good might have come from this pain. Jesus saw the great potential that lay deep within Peter and his companions: it is because of their weakness, that they are invited to leave the comfort of their fishing lives and become itinerant preachers, accompanying the Lord. It is their very humanity that will help them understand the problems of those ordinary people on the margins. Their ministry will envelop the poor, the blind and the prisoners—will they get it right all the time. Most certainly not! Like us all, Peter and the apostles will get things wrong, and it will be a messy journey to Jerusalem, with great moments of deep joy, and all too real pain. This is the ministry that we are invited to share in this coming week: it is a ministry that will demand a total involvement and being prepared to do things creatively and differently. All of us can easily identify with Peter; all of us make mistakes—some more than others. However, Jesus also tells us that each of us is capable of so much wonder and good. God wants to work on our strengths and not our weakness. Perhaps Jesus had heard of the ancient Jewish saying: 'from success to failure is one step. From failure to success is a long road.' The work of Henri Nouwen helps us to see how our personal weakness can help us to move forward, if we are prepared to be open to the Word of God. As a Church, even in a time of global weakness, we can find hope and reasons to be grateful. Nouwen writes
In the sharing of my weakness with others, the real depths of my human brokenness and weakness and sinfulness started to reveal itself to me, not as a source of despair but as a source of hope… insofar as we dare to be baptized in powerlessness, always moving toward the poor who do not have such power, we are plunged right into the heart of God's endless mercy. We are free to re-enter our world with the same divine power with which Jesus came, and we are able to walk in the valley of darkness and tears, unceasingly in communion with God, with our heads erect, confidently standing under the cross of our life.
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB