Putting into the Deep at Christ’s Command, 22nd Wednesday (I), September 7, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of St. Peter
September 7, 2017
Col 1:9-14, Ps 98, Lk 5:1-11

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click here: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Back in 2001, writing the Church’s pastoral plan for the third Christian Millennium, St. John Paul II wrote, “At the beginning of the new millennium, and at the close of the Great Jubilee during which we celebrated the two thousandth anniversary of the birth of Jesus and a new stage of the Church’s journey begins, our hearts ring out with the words of Jesus when one day, after speaking to the crowds from Simon’s boat, he invited the Apostle to ‘put out into the deep’ for a catch: ‘Duc in altum’ (Lk 5:4). Peter and his first companions trusted Christ’s words, and cast the nets. ‘When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish’ (Lk 5:6). Duc in altum! These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence.” He went on to say, “We must look ahead, we must ‘put out into the deep,’ trusting in Christ’s words: Duc in altum!” Referring to Peter’s response in lowering the nets, he said, “As this millennium begins, allow the Successor of Peter to invite the whole Church to make this act of faith.” And he concluded the exhortation by recalling us back to this confident obedience of the Lord in putting out into the deep in the living of the faith and in the new evangelization. 
  • That’s why today’s Gospel is so important. On the Sea of Galilee, fish were caught at night in shallow water, yet Jesus asked him in broad daylight to put out into the deep and lower the nets. Even though that went against all his experience, even though he was exhausted, his nets were cleaned and he had caught nothing the night before, he did it, and we know how he was rewarded. After that, he tried to excuse himself from the Lord on account of his sins, but he discovered Jesus had come to bring him redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus addresses his fear that his sinfulness would make him incapable and told him that he had a far bigger expedition in mind, to make him a fisher of men. Peter left the biggest catch of his life behind him, along with his boats and nets, to follow Jesus. And as we would see after the Resurrection, when the Lord would renew him in his Mission by recapitulating a wondrous draught of fish, Peter would catch 3000 on Pentecost, putting out into the the deep at the Lord’s command and continuing to do so until he would proclaim it by his crucifixion in Rome.
  • It would have been easy for Peter to have been discouraged on account of his failure to catch any fish. It would have been easy for him to be afraid because of his sinfulness. But the Lord called and commissioned him and he obeyed with trust and faith. St. Paul in today’s first reading shares the content of his prayer for the Colossians and us, so that they might overcome the challenges thrust on the first believers due to rejection, the beginnings of a persecution, not to mention their own faults and sins. His prayer, which we pray each Wednesday at Vespers, is just as inspiring today as it must have been among Paul’s first recipients. It’s a prayer for us to receive from God everything we need to put out into the deep, as a caught fish become a fisher of men. St. Paul prayed that they and we might:
    • Be filled with the knowledge of God’s will — so that God’s will be done rather than changed. Our whole life is meant to be an enfleshment of “thy will be done.”
    • Through all spiritual wisdom (sophia) and understanding (sunesis) — so that they might look at things as God sees them and understand how to be able to put them into practice and share them with others;
    • To walk in a manner worthy of the Lord — Faith is ultimately dynamic, following Christ, walking as he walks, and we’re trying to get the whole world on that journey;
    • So as to be fully pleasing — To please the Lord is a summary of holiness and he’s pleased when all of God’s beloved and often prodigal children return home!  
    • In every good work bearing fruit — Faith overflows in the fruit of love;
    • And growing in the knowledge of God — We grow to know God as a friend the more we walk in his ways, the more we know his will, the more we seek to please him;
    • Strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might — God gives us his help so that we might achieve we would never be able to do on our own;
    • For all endurance (hypomone) and patience (makrothumia) — God can strengthen us to perseverance in fidelity even when everything is assailing those of us who live by faith, as the Colossians were being assailed by the Gnostic heresy, or even when we, like Peter, are weighed down by fatigue or discouragement on account of failure or sin;
    • With joy giving thanks to the Father — The great characteristic of Christianity is joyful thanksgiving for all God’s blessings, especially the blessing of himself, his presence, whom we want to share;
    • Who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light — God has made us worthy to share in the treasure of the saints and our task is to help everyone know that they’re heirs and heiresses!
    • He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son — Jesus has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of God’s Son;
    • In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins — We have redemption from sin by union with the Son of God in his kingdom of light through his mercy. That’s what Peter and Paul both experienced and what we’re supposed to grasp as well.
  • St. Paul’s prayer was for us to experience the fullness of the Christian life in this way, so that we can make the exodus from darkness into light, from sin into forgiveness, from squandering our inheritance to receiving it, from cowardice and quitting to hypomone and makrothumia, from working fundamentally on our own to working by God’s power, from being filled with worldly wisdom to being inundated with God’s wisdom and understanding, and from seeking our will to doing God’s.
  • Today we meet the same Jesus who seeks to fill us with that blessing, the same Jesus who spoke in Peter’s boat, the same Jesus who commands us to put out into the deep. Let us ask to be filled with God’s wisdom and understanding, be willing to do what is humanly incredible — like catching fish at exactly the wrong time according to human logic — and launch out into the deep to catch as many as possible for Christ.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
COL 1:9-14

Brothers and sisters:
From the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you
and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
through all spiritual wisdom and understanding
to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord,
so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit
and growing in the knowledge of God,
strengthened with every power, in accord with his glorious might,
for all endurance and patience,
with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the Kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 98:2-3AB, 3CD-4, 5-6

R. (2) The Lord has made known his salvation.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.
Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. The Lord has made known his salvation.

Gospel
LK 5:1-11

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“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.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.