5 Sunday C: You'll be Catchers of People



Michel DeVerteuil
General comments

The miraculous catch of fish was a historical event in the life of Jesus, but also a symbol of the deep conversion experiences which God grants us from time to time and which set us on a new course in our lives. These  experiences usually occur at times when we feel we are stagnating – as spouses, parents, friends, church leaders, ministers, or managers in the work place.
We are toiling all night and catching nothing.
Then one day God sends Jesus to us and he tells us to “put out into deep water” – to move in a new, and frightening, direction. The message might come from a person or a sermon, a book, a television program, a news item in the papers. Sometimes Jesus speaks to us from a negative experience – failure, rejection, falling into a sin we thought we would never commit, recognition that we are addicted to drugs or drink or power.
faith changes everythingWe each have our deep water we must put out into: be reconciled with someone we have refused to speak to for years; give up devotions we love and move to a more contemplative prayer; start working among the poor; get involved in community development; go back to school; join AA; do a Marriage Encounter weekend  or a Life in the Spirit seminar. We put out objections like St Peter’s: “we have toiled all night,” “what will happen if…,” “we tried this before and it didn’t work,” and so on. But we do it anyway and it works – relationships take on new life, classes or work-places  become places of inspiration, our prayer life takes off – so much so that our problem now becomes how to cope with all we have to do: our nets begin to tear.
We feel overwhelmed: “Leave me Lord, I am a sinner.” We who were totally bored now have a feeling of awe at the privilege of being spouse, parent, teacher in classroom or parish, or just to be a baptised Christian.
We know then that our lives can never be the same again: “from now on it is men you will catch.” This must be interpreted correctly. God does not want us to go round trying to “catch” people. The text means first getting involved with people not things, and secondly (according to the parable in Matthew 13:47 – 50) that our mission in life is to lead one another into God’s net, so that we can all be gathered into his kingdom. The Lord wants us from now on to care for people, help them to grow in self-esteem, move away from addictions, from abusive marriages – all the different ways in which we need to be brought closer to God and feel safe in his net.
This new consciousness means giving up things that we thought important. We do it cheerfully; we are “not afraid” as we bring our boats back to land and without giving them a second thought, leave them there to follow the new way God has called us to.

Prayer reflection
Lord, we remember the day when your son Jesus found us washing our nets,
discouraged since we were toiling all night and catching nothing.

He said to us, “Put out into deep water,”
and because he said so, we paid out our nets there.
We netted such a huge quantity of fish that our nets began to tear
so that we signaled to companions in other boats to come and help us
and even theirs were filled to  sinking point.
We were completely overcome at the catch we made
and we fell on our knees in awe before you.
We knew then that we must make a change in our lives,
and focus on leading people into your net.
We brought our boats back to land and left everything and followed Jesus.
help
Lord, our country is toiling all night to solve our problems of crime,
domestic violence and unemployment and catching nothing.
Send us leaders like Jesus who will challenge us
to put out into the deep waters of building a culture of love and pay out our nets there,
so that we may experience a miraculous catch, and be so completely overcome
that we will fall at your knees saying, “Leave us Lord, we are sinners.”
But we need not be afraid, just bring those boats of selfishness to the land,
leave them there and follow you.
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Thomas O’Loughlin,
 
Homily Notes
1. The theme of vocation is one that we tend to hear about once a year after Easter on ‘Vocations’ Sunday’ when we do not usually preach on vocation, as such, but on ‘vocations’ un­derstood as the need for priests (and sometimes nuns and brothers). The priest then becomes the paradigm for all min­istries (there are ministries and lesser ministries and lay min­istries); and ministry becomes the paradigm for ‘vocations’; and seeking such ‘vocations’ – which then often has the epi­thet ‘vocations to the priesthood and religious life’ – dulls our understanding of vocation. So it is worth clearing up the difference between vocation and ministry. Within the tradi­it should be remembered, this confusion of vocation priesthood and / or religious life is a phenomenon that becomes obvious in the post- Tridentine period.
2. The notion of ‘a vocation’ is itself one that gives many people shivers; and meeting someone who is very clear about his or her vocation can be a rather trying experience. Most of us discover our vocation day by day, and bit by bit, and it often a very humdrum business, but without people fol­their many vocations day-in and day-out, without ectacular gestures or events, then the presence of God would disappear from our world. However, for many people ‘the notion of a religious vocation is so tied up with a particular public and ministerial task – in the case of Catholics it is ‘Often just priests, nuns, and monks who are thought of as having a ‘vocation’ – that people are often poorly equipped to see their own life situation and work in explicitly vocational termsS. Indeed, this is exacerbated by the fact that dioceses eve ‘Vocations’ Directors’ whose primary task is not help­ing the people who make up that church to discover their individual vocations, but to encourage ‘vocations’ in the sense of getting men to consider entering a seminary. Thus Vocations’ Director’ is simply a pious euphemism for the personnel-recruitment function of an organisation. However as we read through the gospels we see Jesus again and again helping people discover their vocation; and so this is part of the task of leadership within the churches. So can we sketch out some of the characteristics of vocation in a homily?
3. Vocation is individual, personal, and inter-personal. The unique task that each is called to carry out to build the kingdom depends on our situation, the people we meet, our gifts, our limitations. Each of us lives in a unique set of rela­tionships, and each is the only person in that situation, so each of us can bring that little bit of the creation to its fulfil­ment in Jesus Christ. This calling is personal and is related to persons. The analogy is a family group: each must playa dif­ferent role in keeping the group happy; and if one person fails in that work, the whole group suffers. So it is in our other relationships: if the kingdom brings peace and forgive­ness, I may be the only person in a situation that can promote this here today. And on a larger scale, each has a unique set of gifts which can help those around them – if she the chooses to use them – and these build up the Body of Christ. However, we do not discover our different vocations as lone individuals. We discover our personal and unique contribu­tion to the building of the kingdom in relationship with other people: those people around us with whom we live in a series of relationships. I discover my vocation within a set of inter­personal relationships of needs and gifts. Discovering my vocation makes me more truly human, and helps me to grow in true awareness of the humanity of others.
4. Vocation is developing and unfolding.
Vocation is not taking a job with a fixed job specification: it changes as our lives change, as we change through growing older, and as the needs of the society within which we live change. What one was called to do at one time may be very different to what one is called to do at another time. Each of us has to be listening for what we are called to do today. It is not that there is one moment of hearing a call and then that is the task for a lifetime – just think how such a static notion is untrue to the reality of how our lives unfold. Because vocation is unfolding we have the harder task of being continu­ously listening to what new vocation we have in the life we live at that moment.
5. Vocation is linked to our integrity.
Vocation is not about doing a job, a specific common activity or a formal ministry in the church (although it may include any or all of these), but about being a person who is ‘in
Christ’ and who seeks in every aspect of her /his life to act in Christ. I must become the person God calls me to become and must act in my world honestly as that person.
6. Vocation is all embracing.
It is always tempting to say ‘my vocation is X’ when there is a .l,hint that any other vocation is excluded. But just as life can turn up all sorts of situations, so acting in Christ can take any number of forms. Because the whole of the creation is called towards the perfection of the kingdom, so every aspect of life involved in the vocations of those of us who live and work that part of the creation.
7.  Vocation may embrace a formal ministry, but ministry is not be confused with liturgical abilities or canonical status. In church there will be people who have the skills within body of Christ to serve their fellow Christians with the lie skills they need as a church. These skills will then fall . . the specific vocations of the members of that church, every member of that church has a vocation whether or ‘ttis a specific skill for the community.
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Sean Goan
Luke links the call of the first disciples with the story of a miraculous catch of fish. In so doing he introduces us not only to Peter but also to the mission of the church. Just as Peter’s call comes out of his experience of the power of Christ at work/ so too all who wish to be followers of Jesus must first come to know that their faith is not in a creed or a code but in a person/ Jesus the Son of the living God/ and it is he who is the source of whatever good we may do.
jusus our guide
Reflection
Isaiah/ Paul and Peter all experienced the living God although in very different ways. Whether the experience is one of a mystical vision7 an appearance of the risen Christ/ or a miraculous catch of fish/ each of these men finds it a profoundly humbling moment. They all become aware of their own limited and even sinful nature but this is only the first step because each of them/ while very aware of their own weakness/ knows that they are called to make God known to their contemporaries. The paradox of faith is that even though an authentic experience of God makes us aware of our nothingness/ it is also the very moment when God makes it known that he needs us.
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Donal Neary S.J.5th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Alive
Peter got great joy out of being a fisherman/ a businessman/ with his business partners. Especially when the catch was good and the money was flowing in from Rome and the cities east and west of Galilee.
Jesus offered more – for then/ for now and for always. Life to the full was to follow, even in suffering/ humiliation and death for Peter.
Christ is alive in love of our family network/ our deep friendships/ our care for the needy and our care for the earth. Our volunteers in many places bring the fullness of life of Jesus.
The fish in the story represent all the people who will be found for Christ. And he’d say to Peter,’ look at the fish and think of the people and know that I am alive’.
Jesus partnerSharing and educating in faith is bringing Christ to life. The teachers and chaplains, priests, religious, parish personnel,  all educators in faith are in partnership with the Lord Jesus.
All sincere faith knowledge leads to love of God and each other. Conversion is being in love with God and his creation, with each and with everyone. We want to be in a state of love. Only the one who can love can know God, for God is love. That’s the challenge to all of us in passing on the faith as best we can to another generation. We pass on our faith in love.
It’s not just a catechism but the conviction, belief and joy that Christ is alive. To us Christ would say there will always be fish to be caught and people to be served, the generous gift of God. To us he says there is always love, also the generous gift of God,
Lord, help me to find you in all things,■ and then we can do all for your greater glory.
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From the Connections:

THE WORD:

Commercial fishing has always been a hard way to make a living.  It requires a substantial investment of time and money for boat and gear and their maintenance; it entails considerable risk in leaving the safety of homeport for the open sea; it is hard work, sometimes with little reward; it compels crews to work together to bring in the catch.  The work of the prophet/disciple demands that same kind of risk, personal investment, patience, hard work and sense of community.
   
The best fishing, Peter and his brothers knew, was done at night; little is caught during the heat of the day.  So Peter’s agreeing to lower his nets at Jesus’ urging was, for a fisherman of Peter’s experience, an act of considerable faith.  And as today's Gospel recounts, Peter’s faith is rewarded abundantly.  If the first disciples of Jesus had any special grace at all, it was an openness to Jesus' call and teaching.
   
In Luke’s account, Peter’s reaction is somewhat surprising.  Upon realizing who Jesus is, he cowers away.  In the light of Christ's revelation, Peter recognizes his own unworthiness and humbleness in the sight of God.  But Jesus assures him he has not come to drive sinners from his presence but to bring them back to God – to catch them in “net” of God’s love.
     
HOMILY POINTS:
To be a “catcher of souls” demands possessing enough love to extend ourselves and reach out and “catch” and enough faith that God will give us the grace to make the “grab.”
Jesus challenges us to lower our nets in the “deep water” – to risk our own security and comfort for the sake of the Gospel values of compassion justice and reconciliation.
In the ordinary events of every day we are presented with countless opportunities to uncover the extraordinary love of God in our own times and place.
Many of us suffer from an “inferiority complex” when it comes to God: we are neither saintly enough nor good enough nor wise enough in church protocols to consider ourselves “religious.”  The reality, however, is that God works through men and women who are just like us, however imperfect.

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From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading is a well-known passage from the Old Testament, in which Isaiah describes his vision of Yahweh in heaven with imagery from the earthly temple of Jerusalem. The call of Isaiah is striking due to the sharp contrast between Isaiah's utter unworthiness and the overwhelming holiness of God. Isaiah confesses his sinfulness, and is purified by the symbolic action of the seraph touching his lips. Then God asks, "Whom shall I send?" to which Isaiah generously responds: "Here I am, send me!" Every vision of God implies a choice and an invitation. Every vision implies a mission. Each time we come to God he sends us on a mission. We cannot come to God unless we are ready to go forth in His name!

Called to go forth in his name
Charles Spurgeon was a British preacher who had an experience of sudden conversion to Christianity in 1950 at age 15. On his way to a scheduled appointment, a snowstorm forced him to cut short his intended journey and to turn into a primitive Methodist chapel where God opened his heart to the message of salvation. The text that moved him was Isaiah 45:22 "Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other." It is estimated that after his conversion, in his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to 10 million people. By his death in 1892, he has preached nearly 3,600 sermons, and published 49 volumes of commentaries. Today's liturgy of the Word invites us to explore our own possibilities.
A.K. in 'The Sunday Liturgy'

Unlike the Gospel of Mark where the call of Peter comes at the beginning, Luke's Gospel situates the call of Peter later, after Peter has already witnessed Jesus healing his mother-in-law and after the miraculous catch of fish. Peter and his companions have gone fishing all night and caught nothing. Now Jesus says to Peter, "Launch out into the deep and cast your nets!" Experienced fisherman that he was, Simon Peter certainly knew that it was senseless to cast his net out in the day light after they had caught nothing all through the night. Nonetheless, he trusts in Jesus' power and is astounded by the catch. "Leave me alone Lord, I am a sinner" pleads Peter. Jesus has now 'caught' Peter. Jesus responds: "From now on, it is men you will catch!" Then bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him. Common to the three calls in today's three readings is a common underlying pattern: -the awareness of human sinfulness and unworthiness; the assurance of God's power, holiness and faithfulness; and the acceptance of the God-given mission. These are the dynamics of every Christian calling, our calling as well. God is constantly calling us. His call and invitation will make us aware of our unworthiness and sinfulness but at the same time assure us that He wants us and needs us. It is God who calls and God who sends!

The call to launch out

Many years ago, a little boy in the USA, was badly burnt in a schoolhouse fire. So severe was the damage to his limbs and muscles that doctors predicted that he would never walk again. To his good luck, however, that little boy had a mother who, though illiterate, was staunch in her Christian faith. Against all odds, she believed that God could heal her son. Day after day, sometimes for hours, that devoted mother would massage the scarred, seemingly lifeless legs of her little boy, even as he cried with pain, and she would say to him: "Don't worry, my boy, you will not only walk someday, but you will run." To the cynical and the pessimistic, that was mere wishful thinking, in fact, absolute nonsense. The noble mother firmly believed her son was going to be victor not the vanquished. And he was - in 1934 he set the world's record in running a mile in 4 minutes 6.7 seconds. His name? Glenn Cunningham! -"Launch out into the deep!" said Jesus to the crestfallen Peter after his failure in catching any fish during the night, and to us. "Be not afraid!" said a certain Jim Vorsas: "The Lord gives us friends to push us to our potential -and enemies to push us beyond it."
Valladares J. in "Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit and they Are Life"
If faithfulness were a businessIn a certain church there was a man in the choir who couldn't sing very well. The choir director suggested that he should leave the choir. Others suggested that he be given more time to improve. The choir director then decided to go to the pastor and complain. "You have got to get that man out of the choir or else I am going to resign." So the pastor went to the man and said to him, "Perhaps you should leave the choir." "Why should I leave the choir?" the man asked. "Well," said the pastor, "four or five people have told me you cannot sing." "That's nothing," the man replied, "forty or fifty people have told me you cannot preach!" -Our lives are a mixture of strengths and weaknesses. This weekend readings talk about 'strengths and weaknesses' and how God can make use of the most unlikely people to fulfill the divine purposes. What an encouragement to all who hear today's readings! God can choose the not-so-good people to be the messengers of His words. This can give great comfort to any of us who try to be ministers and speakers of his words. God does not need our capability but availability!

He can transform our weaknesses
There was a king who owned a large perfectly cut diamond. He was very proud of it and made it the national symbol. Unfortunately, the diamond one day got damaged and its beauty was marred by a long hair-like scratch. Its splendor was gone and its sparkle diminished. The king was very saddened. He gathered all the reputed jewelers for consultation. They all said that it had lost its splendor and value. In desperation the king sent our word throughout his kingdom, "Anyone who could repair the damaged diamond would be suitably rewarded." Finally, just when the king was about to give up the hope of restoring the stone, a poor lapidary gem engraver came forward to restore it. "Sir" he said to the king, "this same scratch which has diminished the diamond's worth will become its most beautiful asset." The king entrusted the man with the stone and many weeks passed before his return. Finally when the lapidary opened his velvet box to display his craftsmanship, the king gasped in amazement. There was the stone -more beautiful than ever, with a beautiful rose carved on it. Only the king could detect that on the rose's graceful stem was the scratch that had once so ruined the diamond. Jesus is the master jeweler, who can transform the scratches, which dim and distort our lives into something that could shine and scintillate.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

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From Fr. Tony Kadavil and Sermons.com

1. “I don’t think I’ll be there.”

Reverend Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived in a small town to preach a sermon.  Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the post office was.  When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Baptist church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to heaven.” “I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy said. “Why?” Billy Graham asked him.  “Because you don’t even know your way to the post office! How can you show me the way to heaven?” Today’s readings tell us about the calls of the prophet Isaiah, Paul, and Peter to God’s ministry.
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2: "Well, I'm a student of physics."

 
I love the story that is told of a sophomore who worked in the library at Princeton to earn money to help with his education. One night about closing time, he was walking around the empty halls of the library when he noticed in the very back corner amid an old stack of books, an old man reading and taking notes furiously. The old man was very intent. The librarian became a little curious so he went back to the old man and said, "My, what are you studying so intently?" The old man looked up long enough to say, "Well, I'm a student of physics." The young librarian said, "Well, last year I took a course in physics and I think I have all I need for an understanding of physics." He then turned and walked back to his desk. You can imagine his chagrin a few minutes later when the old man checked out some books, and on his library card was the name Albert Einstein. God's call is a calling to a process, not a single task. Today’s scripture about the call of Isaiah, Peter and Paul remind us that our  calling is to a lifelong process of obedience, service and surrender to God, in which we grow daily more like Jesus. There is nothing in the world more joyful than that. There is nothing in the world more challenging.
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3: “I work for Jesus Christ:”


One day, author and educator Howard Hendricks was on a plane that was delayed from takeoff. As passengers became irritated and demanding, Howard noticed how gracious one of the flight attendants continued to be with each passenger. When they were finally in the air he continued to be amazed at her poise and control. When she came by his seat, Howard asked if he could write a letter of commendation to the airline on her behalf. “I don’t work for the airline,” she replied, “I work for Jesus Christ. My husband and I prayed this morning that I would be a good representative of Jesus Christ on this flight.” Do you have a career or a calling? You see, somewhere out on Lake Galilee, a handful of fishermen were transformed in such a way that they would eventually change the world because Christ had come and had given them a mission for eternity.

4) "Hop into my wheelbarrow. I'll wheel you across!"

There's a wonderful story of a tightrope walker, who was challenged to walk a tightrope across Niagara Falls. Everything was in place. There were huge steel struts on either side of the canyon and a strong, steel tightrope. There were television cameras, reporters and a massive crowd. But there was no safety net. The tightrope walker appeared with a wheelbarrow, which he had decided to push in front of him across the rope. The crowd cheered him on, although some begged him not to make this foolish attempt. One voice in the crowd was more vociferous than the rest: "Go on! You can do it! I know you can! Don't listen to these pessimists. I have complete faith in you." The tightrope walker turned to the speaker and asked, "You have faith in me? You're certain? You know I can do it?" The speaker emerged from the crowd and nodded. "I'm absolutely certain. I have no doubts at all. You can do it!" "OK," said the tightrope walker. "Hop into my wheelbarrow. I'll wheel you across!" Amazingly, the speaker climbed into the wheelbarrow. And the tightrope walker wheeled him safely across to the other side. What incredible, courageous, foolhardy faith! Today’s gospel describes Peter's leap to a much deeper and stronger faith in Jesus and His ministry through Jesus’ response to Peter’s trusting obedience, His gift of a miraculous haul of fish at the Lake of Gennesaret.
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5.  Catching fish from the shop:
A man had spent fruitless day fishing. He didn't want to go home empty-handed. He decided to stop at a local fish market. "I'd like three good sized fish," he said to the clerk. "But before you wrap them, toss them to me, one by one." The clerk looked puzzled at his request, "Sir? That's a strange thing to ask." Smiling the man said, "This way I'll be able to tell my wife truthfully that I caught them!"
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6.  “I am a fisher of men."

The Reverend Dr. McStuffedshirt encountered one of his less-than-faithful parishioners returning from a day's fishing and engaged him in conversation. "Ah, Brother Jones," he began in his best preaching tone, "You are a fine fisherman, but I am a fisher of men." Jones, determined to get home after a long day, replied, "So I have heard. But I was passing your church last Sunday, looked in the window, and noticed you had not caught too many..."

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7. Priest Plays Hooky:

The pastor was a fisherman, but he hadn't fished in months. One perfect Sunday morning he couldn't resist. He called up his associate priest and claimed he had laryngitis. The priest then headed out to his favorite spot. The hook hadn't been in the water five minutes before he got a strike, and landed the biggest fish he had ever caught - although he had seen bigger ones caught by others. A half hour later, he caught the biggest fish he had ever seen. Another forty-five minutes later he landed a fish that broke the world record. All this time St. Peter and God have been watching the priest from heaven. St. Peter turned to God, and said, "How can you reward this priest? He lied. He doesn’t observe Sunday obligation." God smiled at St. Peter, and replied, "I'm punishing him." St. Peter was confused, so God continued, "Well, after he finishes, whom can he tell his story to?"

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8. Walking on water:

 

Three ministers were out on a lake fishing one fine afternoon in a boat, a Protestant minister, an Episcopalian priest and a newly-arrived Catholic priest. They were sitting out in the middle of the lake and the Protestant minister said he had to relieve himself, so he got out of the boat and walked across the water to shore, relieved himself behind a tree. Then walked back to the boat. The Episcopalian priest did the same thing. The Catholic priest thought to himself, if they can do it, so can I. So he stepped out of the boat and started sinking. After saving him and bringing him back on the boat one minister commented: "We should have told him where the rocks are under the water!"
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9.  The Tony New Yorker magazine ran a wonderful cartoon of a psychiatrist and his patient. The caption has him saying to her, "Madam, please do not get angry. I'm only trying to save you money. You should feel guilty."

 The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen said that instead of becoming penitents many of us become patients. 

 The Lake of Galilee possesses a picture postcard beauty. If you were to rent an Air Chance helicopter, you would see a pear-shaped body of water about thirteen miles long and eight miles wide. It enjoys almost a tropical climate.

 In the time of the Christ, there were ten prosperous towns situated around the lake. Almost all of those people made their living from the waters in front of them. Thus, one gets an idea of how rich the lake was in fish.

This point makes it difficult to understand how the professional fisherman Peter and his companions had come up empty the night before. All they had caught were bad colds, a pair of old sneakers, some empty bottles, and crabs dead from advanced old age.

Some years ago I swam in the Lake of Galilee. I watched Jewish teens water-skiing on its surface. I wondered if they ever recalled that a fellow Jew had once walked on the same waters without skis.

Early morning Peter and his people were cleaning their nets on the shore. At the same time, Jesus was well into His long workday. He was preaching to huge crowds on the beach. Because of Cana and several other miracles, He had become an reluctant celebrity. The village synagogues were no longer large enough to hold the people anxious to hear Him. So, He preached on the beaches.

 The Teacher was not bound to old methods. He was willing to try new ways of reaching people. If the mountain would not come to Jesus, He would go to the mountain. We should be as  enterprising as He.

 The mob was so eager to hear Him they were pushing Him into the lake for an unwanted swim. Jesus had to be an  awesome preacher. When was the last time you fought for ringside seats to hear a preacher?

Quickly the Nazarene  jumped into the high bow of Peter's large boat drawn up on the sand. He had to have been in wonderful physical shape. There was very little chance that He was overweight. And you were thinking of not exercising today or not beginning that long overdue diet, were you?

 The bow became His pulpit. Once His instruction was finished, He ordered Peter to cast off. He was about to give him a payback catch. Even for Jesus there was no such thing as a free meal. We can thus assume that He will likewise return us dividends whenever we freely cooperate with Him.

 Before the miracle catch, Peter addressed the Christ as Master. He was but an interesting rabbi but nothing more. But then the nets were dragged into the boat overflowing with fish. At that point, Luke stresses Peter was no longer on his feet but on his knees. And this time he called Jesus Lord. It was not that Peter was an incisive theologian. Rather, like all his fellow Jews, he believed that anyone who possessed control over the waters also possessed divinity. Such a man had to be the Messiah.

 Notice too what Peter says: "I am a sinful man."  The Wall Street Journal carried an article that posed the question: "When was the last time you had a good conversation about sin?" Most of us would have to reply that we no longer have such discussions. We have become sinless. If so, one should not wonder why the world is in the state it is. 

 Why not examine your conscience against this benchmark by Fr Joseph? In the home Christianity is kindness. In business it's honesty. In society it's courtesy. In work it's fairness. To the unfortunate it's sympathy. To the weak it's help. To the evil it's resistance.  

 When a preacher speaks about sin, do you shrug and conclude he is speaking about someone else? If affirmative, I respectfully suggest you reflect on The New Yorker cartoon. Perhaps you should feel guilty. Are you Fulton Sheen's penitent or patient?  

 When was the last time you were at confession?

10. When we installed a shower heater in the Retreat House we ran into some trouble. It has an element in it that heats up. If a lot of water passes over the element the water does not get very hot. If there is little water it will get very hot. Since we got it, almost every new user has blown the safety mechanism that cuts off the water when it gets to a scalding temperature. When they feel the water getting hot they turn the switch down, when what they should do, to make the water cooler, is to turn it up.

This to me is a good analogy of what happens often in our dealings with God. What we instinctively do or expect is the reverse of the divine way. We see this especially in the choice of leaders. We would expect God to choose the best and only the best people for leadership positions. Yet, the people that God chooses, and the Bible makes no attempt to conceal the fact, are often the most unlikely ones. Moses was a hot headed murderer before he was called to lead the people. David, the Royal Psalmist, was first of all a spoiled child and later an adulterous autocrat.

 In today's readings we see God call Isaiah to be his prophet who says "What a wretched state I am in! I am a lost man, for I am a man of unclean lips." Then there is St. Paul who can never forget that he was persecuting the Church when the Lord called him. Then, of course, we have Peter! One would think that impetuous coward would be the last person for Jesus to choose. Why were they chosen?

They were called not because they were perfect, not because they were shining examples of high standards, but rather because their sense of the need for God's grace kept them on the edges of life and away from the smug infertility of those who feel that they have got it all together.

Today's story about Peter is a classic example of God's unpredictability and Peter's missing the point. Jesus preaches from Peter's boat and then asks him to pull out to make a catch of fish. In matters of fishing Peter was an expert and Jesus a dumb carpenter. "Master," Peter points out, "we worked hard all night long and caught nothing." He knew that fish came to the surface in the sea of Galilee only at night and if you did not get them then you would never get them. But to humor the celebrity he agreed to take Jesus out to fish. When he does, their nets are filled to bursting point and they have to ask the help of other fishermen to bring in the catch.

 Peter got the point very quickly. He immediately saw his own pride and self-centeredness in the presence of Jesus. He begged Jesus to go away and put distance between his sinfulness and Jesus' holiness. But here again Peter got it wrong. It was only when he felt sinful and empty that Jesus could call him and fill him and make him a fisher of people. Up to this point he had been too full of himself to allow God in. Now he is told that sinfulness is not a barrier to keep God out: it expresses a real need for God to come in. Peter is the first person in the Gospel to acknowledge his sinfulness; he is also the first person to be called by Jesus.

The Good News of the gospel is that God does not get nervous at the news of our sinfulness. He can handle sinners. Our God is one who gives sinners a new start. The scribes and pharisees liked to keep people prisoners of their sins but not so for Jesus. He moves Peter from protestation of sinfulness to the work that is ahead of him. It is important that we acknowledge our sinfulness but then to get up and live again - trusting not so much in our own goodness as in that of God.  

Prayer is a time for being before God as we truly are. We do not have to be good, as so many think, to enter into God's presence. When we are there, not denying our sinfulness or wallowing in our failures, the Lord raises us up to be humble fishers of other people. For the Lord, the humble are exalted and the exalted are humbled. Indeed, for Jesus, "up" often means "down" and "down" often means "up."
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11. A week ago in the United States (last year) there was the playing of the championship of professional football, a/k/a Super Bowl  Sunday. The contest was between the Baltimore Ravens, (their team name derives from the famous poem by Edgar Allen Poe who was born in Baltimore) and the San Francisco 49ers, (named for the gold prospectors who came to northern California in 1849). These two teams  represented their respective cities. Millions of people  gathered to watch the game on TV of course, but those who do not know much about football watched, yes it is a fact, the commercials. The TV company even allowed total access to all the commercials at any time. Companies spend millions of dollars for a thirty second spot for their most creative advertisings. So there were in fact two contests and two winners: one athletic and the other financial. Even the advertisements get evaluated and rated by experts.
The first advertisement on behalf of God in today’s Eucharistic liturgy is from the Book of Isaiah and is the narrative of his being called. Isaiah is in the temple and has the vision of which we hear. He is aware that he is in the presence of the very Holy One of Israel. His response is natural and healthy. The closer the Holy, the less holy seems the human.
The seraphim (the name means “The Burning One” in Hebrew) takes a coal from the altar’s fire and touches the lips of the prophet-to-be. He knows he is like the people with whom he lives and to whom he will be sent to advertise the holiness of God. He then hears the voice of God asking about whom God might send. Isaiah, now unburdened by his own sin, responds immediately.
Sanctified means more then made holy by purging, it implies also a separating from and a separating for. Isaiah will be sent into his people, trusting what he has heard and seen; trusting the holy he has received. God has certain ways of getting our attention. Isaiah was in the temple, because he had nothing else to do? No, there was something inside him which was available and receptive to the vision and the mission.
Peter in today’s Gospel, was doing his usual thing, except the fish were not available nor receptive to Peter’s ways of catching them. This emptiness allowed him in turn to be available for the reception of both good fishing advice and a Super Bowl of fish. Jesus was in his teaching mode advertising his new way of looking at one’s self, ones neighbors and ones world. As any good teacher does, Jesus is going to employ a visual aid. He presents Peter with a vision, a Super Something by which he will catch Peter’s attention and spirit. As with Isaiah, Peter’s response is self-inflicted shame and negativity. Peter does say his truth, “I am a sinful man.” Jesus does not deny that. Actually following Jesus will reveal even more of that self-truth to Peter.
The wonderful reality is that while Peter will be finding out just how true his statement is, he, Peter, will have a vision constantly of the personal love which Jesus has for Peter and others such as he.
With such a super-abundant catch of fish, Peter is caught himself. He was available to the call of Jesus, because Jesus came into his boat, came through his door. He came to Peter according to Peter. As a result of the action, vision, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Peter sees his poverty made rich and when Jesus invited him, what could he do, but follow, leaving his nets, boats and everything except wanting more.  
In watching or reading advertisements one thing is always present: they make sure you know that you have a need. That need may be medical, financial, social, or for security. After the advertiser convinces you of your need, the product is presented as the only need-filling solution. We may never have averted to that need, but they can convince us we have it.
Jesus is beginning to collect his team of advertising agents. The liturgy and the Gospels continue calling us by helping us sense a deeper need than commercials can touch. The emptiness of Peter’s nets is a worthy symbol. He certainly had to face the fact of his not having, not being the fisherman he wanted to be and thought he was. This self-inflicted negativity is a normal response to a something, a certain not being which is characteristic of us as humans. Commercial advertisers offer us products which will touch slightly this zero-point, this nothingness which hums quietly all the time and now-and-then shouts out.
Jesus embraced our humanity by being one of us, born with us, come fishing with us. He embraces Peter’s emptiness, fills it, but just temporarily. Peter will want more, want to be more, have more. That human-humming is a gift of the Creator which allows our availability to the more of God’s love. The most difficult thing about our being human is living as a human. Jesus came to save us, not only from damnation, and not from being human, but from being sucked in by all the false advertisers of this world who want us to run and hide from our being human and embraced by God.  Peter was freed from the negativity of being a poor fisherman and given the mission of continuing the divine embrace to all his brothers and sisters.
We may have enjoyed watching the Super Bowl and perhaps enjoyed even more the commercials. Perhaps, like me, you counted how many needs they tried to convince you that you had and have. We can Give the best ones our highest rating and begin laughing at how gullible they think we are - and they’re right.

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Many years ago the great explorer, Sir Francis Drake, was attempting to recruit a number of young men for an upcoming exploration. He gathered them around and told the group that if they came with him they would see some of the most marvelous things their eyes could ever behold. Sandy white beaches, juicy fruits, foreign peoples, priceless treasures, and gorgeous landscapes. And he told them that this wild adventure could be theirs if they came with him. Not one of them enlisted for the journey. The next day a different group came out. Drake told them that if they came with him they would encounter storms that would terrify them into tears. Tiger winds would hammer them and blow them off course for months. Water would frequently be scarce. At times they will be so thirsty that their very souls would cry out for simply one drop of water. In short, danger would always be their constant companion. Drake concluded by declaring that if they could handle these things, the joys of exploration would exceed their wildest dreams. Every single one of them in the group joined Sir Francis Drake that day, some did not even go home to say goodbye to their families, they just boarded the boat eager for the journey.
 
What made the difference in these two groups? Why did the first group turn down the mission and the second jump at the chance? Was the second group different and more adventurous than the first? The answer is: No. It is not the men who had changed; it was the message. The first spoke of rewards; the second spoke of challenges. The first offered comfort; the second promised suffering. The first tempted them with things; the second seduced them with an experience unlike any other.
 
I like to think that Sir Francis Drake discovered what Jesus knew all too well. And that is this: The paths that are offered to us must promise to shape us, build our character, change our world view, if they are to have any appeal to us at all. If we are presented with a challenge that will change, we will be eager for the journey.
 
What is it about Jesus' message that made the disciples eager for the journey that was presented to them?
 
1. Jesus offered them a change.
2. The mission promised to be a challenge.
3. And their lives would never be the same. 
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Here is the good news for today from Luke 5:1-11. This is the Word of God! A word of great encouragement and hope. Hope is the unique signature of the Christian gospel. What makes a Christian a Christian is this inability to quit hoping. A new gift from God is at work on our behalf, at all times in all circumstances.
 
The crowds had pressed Jesus right up to the edge of the water at the Sea of Galilee to hear the Word of God. There he came upon three defeated men. They had fished all night and had only an empty boat to show for their efforts. They had worked hard but had failed. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
 
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is a children's book. It's one of my favorite books of theology. It's about a little boy for whom nothing goes right. The story opens with these words:
 
I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day... I think I'll move to Australia.
In the car pool Mrs. Gibson let Becky have a seat by the window. Audrey and Elliott got seats by the window, too. I said I was being smushed. I said, if I didn't get a seat by the window, I'm going to be carsick and throw up. No one ever answered. I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
And, that's just the way it turned out. That night the little fellow said, "It has been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia."
 
Life does not stand still. There isn't a once-for-all experience. It was Winston Churchill who said, "Success is never final. Failure is never fatal. It is courage that counts."
There are going to be bad days. Sometimes we are going to fall on our respective faces. These failures don't have to be endings. They can be the avenue to experience God's grace more widely and more deeply.
Jesus of Nazareth gets into the boat with the three defeated men...
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In 1976, by the invitation of the President of Mexico, Mother Teresa opened a home in a very poor section outside of Mexico City. The Sisters who visited in the homes of these very poor people were surprised when, despite their poverty, these impoverished people did not ask for clothes, medicine, or food. They only said, "Sisters, talk to us about God." 
Today is the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany. The Scriptures have shown us many epiphanies during this season. We saw the star lead the magi to Bethlehem so that they could see and worship the child who was born King of the Jews. Then on the second Sunday we had the epiphany of a dove and a voice from heaven, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Then we had the epiphany of God's people as His bride. On the fourth Sunday we had the epiphany of joy the joy of the Lord which is our strength. Last Sunday we had an epiphany about the Christian life that it is all about love. And finally, today we go up on a mountain to discover Christ in all his glory.
We are told that the occasion of the transfiguration of Christ probably took place on Mt. Hermon, which rises to an elevation of 9,166 feet and is located in the area of Caesarea-Philippi. The story begins like this, "About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray . . ."
You might rightly ask, "Eight days after saying what?" This is most interesting. It was eight days after Simon Peter had his own significant epiphany. Remember, Jesus had asked the disciples who people were saying that he is? And Simon Peter answered, "God's Messiah."
In Luke's telling of the story, Jesus immediately warned them not to tell this to anyone...
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A Choice to Go
 
I may be a fairly good sailor at this point in my life but there were times when, like Peter, I had to be humbled. One time I was sailing a Sunfish in Michigan. I had trouble controlling the wind which was building and the sailboat and I ended up in shallow water. I had to walk the boat back into deep water. About that time an officer spotted me and towed me back to deep water. I was humiliated as my friends watched me be blown off course. It was a most embarrassing moment.

Peter was not called because he had any special qualifications except for the fact he made a choice to go where Jesus led him. He was also called in the midst of his daily living. It didn't take place in some holy place like the temple. For sure, his willingness to "follow" would change his life, reversing some of his normal priorities and changing the lives of others too.

Keith Wagner, First, You Have to Row a Little Boat
_________________________________________The Impala Problem
 
One of the few creatures on earth that can out-jump Michael Jordon is the Impala. This is an African deer with a supercharged spring. It has a vertical leap of over 10 feet and can broadjump over 30 feet. You would think that the zoos of the world would find it impossible to keep such an animal enclosed. Not so! It's rather easy. Because the experts discovered something about the Impala. It will not jump unless it can see where it is going to land. Therefore, a solid wall even 6 feet tall is a sufficient enclosure. Lots of Christians have the Impala problem. They won't take a leap in faith unless they have all the answers in advance about where the leap will take them. But God is looking for some bold believers who, even in the face of the unknown, will leap when the Spirit says leap, will fly when the Spirit says fly, will launch when the Spirit says launch, all to the glory of the Lord.

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
____________________________________________How Brave Are We?
 
Let me tell you a true, but humorous and slightly scandalous story that comes out of the early days of the church. When the father of Origen, a third century theologian, was arrested for being a Christian, Origen, then only 17, was aflame with the desire to follow his Dad and share in glorious martyrdom. His mother pleaded with him not to go, but the headstrong boy did not want to listen to reason. His quick thinking mother did what she could. She hid his clothes. Though Origen stormed and protested, she wouldn't reveal where they were hidden. He couldn't leave the house, and so he was unable to volunteer for martyrdom.

Isn't it interesting? Origen was brave enough to be martyred, but not brave enough to go outside naked. Stepping outside without clothing would have sped up his arrest and imprisonment, but it was a step he was unwilling to take.

In a sense, I suspect that talking with a friend about our faith is, for many of us, the equivalent of going outside naked. It makes us uncomfortable. We feel exposed. We declare that we will give our lives for Christ if he should ask it, but to risk a bit of embarrassment for him seems to be beyond our level of discipleship. How sad. The disciples were willing to forsake everything including the esteem of their friends. King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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 Catching or Getting Caught?
 
As a boy I was never good at catching things, except a cold now and then. I tried to catch a pony to ride and failed. The butterfly trip was a disaster. I tried catching frogs but didn't try too hard because I didn't know what I would do with them once I caught them. Fish weren't my favorite for eating, so catching them was no treat, because I knew it implied that I would eat them with delight rather than gagging on them, which I always did. I never was good at catching things. A major church denomination has as its theme, "Catch the Spirit." As usual, the church got it backward. We are not to set our sights at catching or getting, but allowing ourselves to be caught. We are invited to be caught by a spirit that helps us make a giving instead of a living. The greatest spiritual arrogance is seen in the language of "catching." People are in search of God and will write endless numbers of books telling one how to find God. The truth of the gospel is that we cannot find God, but there are places we can go and things we can do where God can find us! The joy in Christian living is not in the catching but in the vulnerability of being caught by the one who made us in the first place. Catch the spirit? No! You can't. Be caught by the spirit? Of course! Life begins there.
 
Richard A. Wing, Deep Joy for a Shallow World, CSS Publishing Company  
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 High Goals
 
A man's reach should exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?
 
Robert Browning, Andrea del Sarto. 
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 Follow Me
 
There was a field covered with freshly fallen snow. A father and a son enter the field. As they walk across the field, you notice that the father pays no particular attention to where he is going, but his son, on the other hand, follows directly behind, making a special effort to step in his father's footprints. After the two have crossed the field, you notice that there is only one set of tracks visible in the field, although two had walked across it. The Christian life is that way. In our daily walk we ought to be following Christ's example. Whether in times of suffering, sorrow or need, whether in times of health, joy, or abundance--if someone were to observe the snow-covered fields of your life, would there be one set of tracks, those of Christ? Or would there be two sets, one belonging to Christ and the other distinctly yours?
 
Michael Green, Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993, p.53. Adapted
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 Little Transmitters
 
In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe "Pioneer 10." Its main mission was to reach Jupiter and send back information about that planet. It was a bold plan because at that time no satellite had gone beyond Mars. Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and so much more. It swung past Jupiter in November, 1973, then passed Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. By 1997, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun. Despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to earth. The most remarkable thing was that those signals were powered by an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light. Not even the most optimistic scientist could have ever imagined what that little 8-watt transmitter could do.

So it is when you and I offer ourselves to God in faithful obedience. It's just incredible what God can do through little 8-watt transmitters like me and you, when we're turned on for him.

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com  
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 It Is Darkest before the Dawn
 
George Frederick Handel was dogged with misfortune. He had debt upon debt, despair upon despair. He had a cerebral hemorrhage and was paralyzed on his right side. For four years he could neither walk nor write. The doctors gave up on him. He wrote several operas, but again he fell in debt. At age 60 he thought his life was finished. Then he was challenged by a friend to write a sacred oratorio. He read the Scriptures and decided to work on the Messiah. For 24 days, without eating a crumb, he worked fanatically to produce the Messiah, which many today consider the greatest oratorio ever written.
 
The prospects of something great happening can look grim. Peter had fished all night and caught nothing. Jesus asked him to let down his nets for a catch. It seemed foolish to do so, because Peter knew there were no fish to catch. "But at your word," he said, "I will let down the nets" (v. 5).
John R. Brokhoff, Preaching the Miracles, CSS Publishing Company.