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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.
We 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.

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
helpthat 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 play a 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 ‘it is a specific skill for the community.
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Sean Goan
jusus our guideLuke 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.


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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ILLUSTRATIONS

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 business

In 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 

1: “Ours is total commitment!” There was a story about the hen and the pig bragging to each other about their contribution and commitment to humanity. The hen bragged: “We hens supply thousands of eggs for the market every day. Ours is the best selfless gift.” Not satisfied, the pig countered, “And who lay down their lives so that people may eat bacon, lechon, barbecue, ham and sausages? Pigs. Ours is total commitment of our lives in the service of humanity!” In all the readings for today, especially the Gospel, the message is one – a Call from God and the Commitment expected from those God has called.

2: Divine calls answered: Agnes Bojaxhiu was born in Macedonia in 1910. At the tender age of 12 she strongly felt the call of God and knew she was called to spread the love of Jesus Christ. At age 18 she entered a convent and joined the sisters of Loreto. While teaching at a high school in Calcutta she was so moved by the extreme poverty she saw from her window that she sought and received permission to work among the poorest of poor in the slums. The story of her work became well known to all because this woman we know as Mother Theresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, continued to obediently answer God’s call to serve God’s people until her death. About 5 years ago a very successful attorney from Atlanta was sitting on the cloister porch at a monastery in New York. He had just spent three days in prayer, and quiet listening for God. He made a decision at that time to leave his comfort zone of high income, recognition in the legal community, power and prestige and enter seminary. He was ordained Deacon in this place in December and will be ordained Priest later this year. God said “follow me” and in faith and obedience, this man did exactly that. There was a special blessing for me in all of that because I was sitting next to him on the cloister porch when he made and announced his decision. (Rev. Ed Fuller).

3: A call rejected: 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.

4: Divine call daily executed: One day, author and educator Howard Hendricks was on a plane that was delayed from take off. 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.

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!”

6) “I am a fisher of men.” The Reverend Dr. McStuffed-Shirt 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…”

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 the 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?”

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!”

26- Additional anecdotes:

1) Call answered as a continuous process: There is a story about a sophomore who worked in the library at Princeton, New Jersey 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 to a single task. Today’s Scripture readings about the calls 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.

2)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 broad-jump 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. 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 of 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. Why must we be willing to launch out into the deep with the Lord? Because our Lord was willing to launch out into the deep for us. Today’s Scripture passages present Isaiah, Paul and Peter who dared to make a leap of Faith.

3) “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.

4) “Can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?” There was a man who took great pride in being a former Navy Seal. And why not? This is an elite group. It takes a special sailor to qualify as a Navy Seal. This man tells about sharing his military exploits with his grandson’s kindergarten class. This former Seal regaled the children with his war stories. After he finished, hands shot up into the air all over the classroom. The kids were eager to ask questions. “So,” asked one little girl, “can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?” Well, to be sure, a Navy Seal ought to be able to balance a ball on the end of his nose. Life has a way of humbling us, doesn’t it? We think we are impressing people, and all they want is to see us balance a ball on the end of our nose. Our Scriptures for today all have one thing in common: Isaiah, Paul and Peter met God and were humbled.

5) Failure of Leonardo da Vinci. Failure is not a dirty word–and yet we sometimes act as if it is. Every great person fails at some time in his or her life. Leonardo da Vinci did. In addition to his incredible talents in painting and sculpting, da Vinci was also a mathematician, philosopher, master chef, architect, athlete, and inventor. But even great geniuses can experience failures, sometimes, great ones. One of da Vinci’s biggest blunders occurred when he was working in the household of an Italian nobleman, Ludovico Sforza. Sforza put da Vinci in charge of planning a banquet for two hundred guests. Leonardo intended to sculpt all the food into tiny artistic masterpieces. He created a fully automated kitchen in Sforza’s mansion in order to feed that many people. But the night of the banquet, everything fell apart. The conveyor belt da Vinci had installed broke down and started a fire. Next, the sprinkler system he had created kicked in to put the fire out. Soon, the whole kitchen was flooded. The banquet had to be called off. [Michael J. Geb. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci (New York: Dell Publishing, 1998), p. 79.] Have you known failure? Have you felt you were a failure? Have you had nights when the fish just don’t bite? I have. I have felt I was a failure. I have been like Simon Peter toiling all night, giving my best, maybe working too hard, yet at the end of the day, my nets felt empty!

6) “Oh God, here am I, send me. Send me!” William Bausch tells the story of a nun who received some extra grant money. She worked as a chaplain in a women’s prison in Chicago. She went to the women and said, “I have some money that I want to spend on you and I’m going to give you some options: 1) I can hire an attorney to come and talk with you on how you can shorten your sentences; 2) I can hire a welder to come in and teach you to weld so that you can have a marketable skill when you leave the prison; or 3) I can hire a dancer and a painter to teach you how to dance and how to paint.” Ninety-five percent chose the dancer and the painter because, as they said, “They always wanted to express themselves, but never had the chance.” That puts God’s calling where it should be and that is in a positive light. The most fulfilling, the most expressive, the most joyful experience you will ever know in your life is walking in the middle of God’s will for your life. Hear the invitation, and say, “Oh God, here am I, send me. Send me!”

7) “Everything for sale” as Satan is going out of business: There is a legend that tells about the time the devil decided to close up shop in one part of the world and open up in another. A “going-out-of-business” sale was announced. One of the first customers, being quite fascinated with the various evil instruments on display, noticed that of all the devil’s tools, the highest priced one was called “discouragement.” “Why is this one so expensive?” he inquired. “Quite simple,” replied the devil. “It’s my favorite. With the tool of discouragement, I can pry into almost everyone’s life and cause all kinds of damage.” Today’s Scripture lessons tell us that God calls weak and sinful men like Isaiah, Paul, and Peter to His ministry and fills them with His Spirit to free them from all feelings of discouragement when this attack. All they have to do is to ask and receive His help.

8) Legal permanent resident: One hundred three miles of open water separates the most southern tip of Florida from the most northern coast of Cuba. It’s a stretch of water that has claimed hundreds of lives since the Cuban revolution. Flotillas of “boat people,” seeking freedom and family in the US, have created desperate “boats” out of anything that might possibly float long enough to reach US soil. The goal of these “boat people” is simple: hit dry land. As long as these refugees are in the water, they are Cubans. As of 1995 the US has agreed either to return rescued or captured “boat people” to Cuba or transport them to a neutral third country. But once these soggy sailors’ feet hit dry land they are instantly transformed. They have the right to stay in the US for at least a year. That qualifies them to get expedited “legal permanent resident” status and eventually even perhaps US citizenship. The moment a Cuban refugee has “dry feet,” a whole new future welcomes him or her. The first disciples Jesus calls in Luke’s Gospel are “dry feet” disciples. But they didn’t become dry-feet disciples until they were willing to be “boat people.” They launched into deep water at Jesus’ command. Once out there, they saw and experienced things over which they had no control. Things they knew with their hearts and souls were sure evidence of God’s providence and sovereignty.

9) The challenging invitation: 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 to tears. Tiger winds would hammer them and blow them off course for months. Water would frequently be scarce. At times they would 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 ship, eager for the journey. What is it about Jesus’ message that made the disciples eager for the journey? They were made eager because first, Jesus offered them a change. 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 us, we will be eager for the journey.

10) Prompt response to God’s call: Dr. Paul Brand was a physician who volunteered in India as the first orthopedic surgeon to work with leprosy patients. He listed as his reference Henri Nouwen, a former professor at Notre Dame, Yale, and Harvard, who ended up devoting his life to the mentally handicapped in institutions in France and Toronto. Neither of these men had a low opinion of his own worth or abilities. In spite of that, and because of their relationship with God, they chose to serve the least and the lowest. (Philip Yancey, “Humility’s Many Faces,” Christianity Today, December 4, 2000). Isaiah writes: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!'” That was Isaiah’s response, “Send me.” Paul’s response was: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been in vain.”

11) “We could change the world.” In James Goldman’s novel, The Lion in Winter, there is a scene where three sons wrestle for the right to succeed King Henry. John tells his mother Eleanor that his brother Richard has a knife. Listen as she captures the base instinct of humanity and then offers a better way: “Of course (your brother) has a knife. We all have knives–we are barbarians–we are the origins of war–we breed war. For the love of God,” she continues, “can’t we love one another–just a little? That’s how peace begins. We have such possibilities, my children. We could change the world” (James Goldman, The Lion in Winter, pp. 55-56). After Simon and Andrew, James and John had fished all night and failed to catch any fish, Jesus came to them and made life right. Jesus’ order to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch,” is both a challenge and a promise. Challenge: We must never be afraid to try again. Promise: the long night passes into day and we live to put our nets down for another day, expecting the providence of God. We have such possibilities. We could change the world.

12) “I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.” It was just after midnight on November 20, 1988. A 19-year-old Los Angeles woman apparently fell asleep behind the wheel of her car. The car plunged through a guardrail and was left dangling by its left rear wheel. That one wheel was all that prevented the young woman from falling to a certain death. A half dozen passing motorists stopped and attempted to help. One of them had some ropes in his vehicle. They tied the ropes to the back of the young woman’s car and hung on until the fire units arrived. A ladder was extended from below to help stabilize the car while firefighters tied the vehicle to tow trucks with cables and chains. “Every time we would move the car,” said one of the rescuers, “she’d yell and scream. She was in pain. ”It took almost 2 1/2 hours for the rescuers, about 25 of them in all, to secure the car and pull the woman to safety. “It was kinda funny,” L.A. County Fire Capt. Ross Marshall recalled later. “She kept saying, “I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself.” (http://www.holwick.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=679:1-samuel-18-6-12 every-crutch-kicked&catid=38:1-a-2-samuel&Itemid=11.) People are funny like that. “I’ll do it myself.” Against all evidence to the contrary, we somehow think we don’t need other people. And we think we don’t need God. We are going to meet three men in today’s Scripture, Isaiah, Paul and Peter, three men who had their lives radically changed by God. We’re going to see how God changed their lives, and, with His help, we are going to ask God to do the same for us.

13) “Atlas complex” You may have heard the expression, “He has an Atlas complex.” This usually refers to an individual who seems to have an exaggerated sense of his or her own importance. Or it may refer to the person who feels that he or she is the only one who can do a certain job, make important decisions, take care of himself/herself or other people. It is helpful for us to remember the Greek legend of Atlas. Atlas is the Titan of Greek mythology, guardian of the Pillars of Heaven who took part in the Titans’ rebellion against Zeus and the gods. The great and powerful Zeus won the battle of course, in part because he was assisted by his famous 100-handed monster. The punishment which Atlas received was the job of replacing the Pillars of Heaven and holding up the sky on his own shoulders [M. C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers, The Concise Oxford companion to Classical Literature (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 72]. The story of Atlas is, of course, a myth. However, we both know that there are many people who go through life holding the weight of the world on their shoulders. Instead, let us learn to surrender ourselves to God, receive His strength and do what He commands us to do.

14) “But the fog is not on the maps.” Several years ago, two land surveyors were sent from a large city in Wales to survey the mountains in North Wales. For a week, they stayed in an isolated cabin in shepherd country. Every day they went out with maps, compasses, and charts checking the countryside and the valleys. Several days into the first week, an old shepherd came up to them and said, “Might be best if I go with you tomorrow.” They said, “No, there’s no need for that. We have our maps and charts. We’ll be fine. We have everything we need.” The old shepherd said again, “It might be best if I went with you tomorrow.” “No, we have our maps and charts. We know these hills just like you. We’ll be okay.” And the old shepherd said, “You may have your maps, but the fog is not on the maps.” There come times in our lives when all the charts, maps, and other resources are insufficient. There come times when we can only do God’s work in His power and in his strength. It is an awesome, humbling, and revealing experience to stand before the miracle worker as He reaches out and calls us.

15) “What fish?” A man was stopped by a game-warden in a State Park with two buckets of fish leaving a lake well known for its fishing. The game warden asked, “Do you have a license to catch those fish?” The man replied to the game warden, “No, sir. These are my pet fish.” “Pet fish?” the warden replied. “Yes, sir. Every night I take these here fish down to the lake and let them swim around for a while. I whistle and they jump back into their buckets, and I take ’em home.” “That’s a bunch of hooey! Fish can’t do that!” The man looked at the game warden for a moment, and then said, “Here, I’ll show you. It really works.” “OK. I’ve GOT to see this!” The game warden was curious. The man poured the fish into the river and stood and waited. After several minutes, the game warden turned to the man and said, “Well?” “Well, what?” the man responded. “When are you going to call them back?” the game warden prompted. “Call who back?” the man asked. “The FISH!” “What fish?” the man asked.

16) “Roo raf roo reep ra rums rrarm.” A cold winter day. An old man walked out onto a frozen lake, cut a hole in the ice, dropped in his fishing line, and waited patiently for a bite. He was there for almost an hour, without even a nibble, when a young boy walked out onto the ice, cut a hole in the ice next to him. The lad dropped his fishing line and minutes later he hooked a Largemouth Bass. The old man could not believe his eyes but chalked it up to plain luck. Shortly thereafter, the young boy pulled in another large catch. He kept catching fish after fish. Finally, the old man could take it no longer. “Son,” he said, “I have been here for over an hour without even a nibble. You have been here only a few minutes and have caught a half dozen fish! How do you do it?” The boy responded, “Roo raf roo reep ra rums rrarm.” “What was that?” the old man asked. Again the boy responded, “Roo raf roo reep ra rums rrarm.” “Look,” said the old man, “I can’t understand a word you’re saying.” The boy leaned over, brought his hand to his mouth and spat out a mess of bait. He said again, “You have to keep the worms warm!” You know, there may well be a lesson in that for us too. If we are going to “catch people” as Jesus said, we had better use attractive bait.

17) “Nevertheless!” What a glorious Faith word is “Nevertheless!” Are you willing to say it today whatever your circumstances may be? An 80-year-old man says, “Lord, I have cancer and my chances of beating it are almost nil. I really would like for my doctor to help me overdose so I can just exit as quickly as possible. What possible purpose could I still have on this earth? (But here comes that word) …”NEVERTHELESS, if You want me to model a Faith that not even cancer can touch, if You want me to cast my burden upon You and allow You to sustain me, if You want me to show all these younger people how to die as well as live, with courage and conviction. ..Then Lord, I will launch into the deep with You.”

Consider another example. A middle-aged couple is heartbroken. Their 19-year-old son is hooked on drugs. He even steals items from the home in order to pawn them and buy drugs. These distraught parents cry out to God in all honesty, saying, “Lord, we don’t deserve this misery. We gave the boy every advantage. He grew up in the lap of luxury. Sure, we made some mistakes; perhaps we were overly indulgent. But, who doesn’t make mistakes? We are tempted not only to kick him out of the house, but also to kick him out of our hearts. He no longer deserves to be called our son.” Then here comes that word again! “NEVERTHELESS, if You want us to persevere with that boy, we will try. If You will help us demonstrate tough love, we will. If You can break into his hard, cold, addicted heart, we will keep up our vigil of love and prayer.”

The Scriptural message should be abundantly clear. At crucial living, Jesus calls us to take risks, to launch out with him into the deep. Everything that is prudential, timid, and conservative tells us to play it safe. Dare we step up with Simon Peter and declare boldly, “NEVERTHELESS, I will launch out into the deep with my Lord!”?

18) Best Fantasy Film of the Year.” In the spring of 1978, the film, Oh God! was given an award. It was a film that portrayed the message that God cares about people, that God comes to people, and He wants people to be happy. Do you know the award that film received? “Best Fantasy Film of the Year.” To some people, it is a fantasy that God cares for us; that God loves us and comes to us in the ordinary affairs of our life. To some, it is a fantasy! Why? If we truly believe that God comes to us, speaks to us, calls out to us, then we, too, have to place the net where He tells us, in spite of the fact that we think we know better. That is what this Church is trying to do. When Simon saw the miracle and stood face-to-face with the miracle worker, he fell to his knees at Jesus’ feet and said, “Get away from me! I am unclean! Get away from me! I am a sinful man!” Confrontation with Jesus was not a fantasy for him.( https://youtu.be/ORgQ-i1eFdw)

19) Victor not vanquished: Many years ago a little boy in the U.S.A. was badly burnt in a school fire. So severe was the damage to his limbs and muscles that the 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 her son would recover and get well. 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 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. But that noble mother firmly believed her son was going to be victor and not the vanquished. And he was – in 1934 he set the world’s record for running a mile in 4 minutes 6.7 seconds. His name? Glen Cunningham! –After spending an entire night fishing without success, the apostle Peter, a seasoned fisherman, was very disappointed and depressed. He was ready to brand himself a failure. Then Jesus who was not a fisherman stepped in and urged him not to give up but try another strategy. So Peter could choose between being branded a failure or hailed a success. And Peter decided wisely on the latter – he was going to be a victor and not the vanquished. In the words of a Yiddish saying, ”From success to failure is one step. From failure to success is a long road.” (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

20) Strengths and weaknesses In 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 felt that he should 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. We certainly try to maximize our strengths, but at the same time we may try to conceal our weaknesses so people can appreciate our strengths. We can even talk about the weaknesses of others, so people are not likely to notice ours. This weekend’s readings talk to us about ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho).


21) Faith is a gift: The famous author of The Song of Bernadette, Franz Werfel, gave an enthusiastic graduation talk at Mundelein College for girls in Chicago about the Blessed Virgin. This was all the more remarkable since the students knew that he was a Jew. During the short question period after the speech, one student asked him, “Mr. Werfel, if I am not getting too personal, could you explain how it is that you seem to know so much about the Catholic Church and its teachings and still you are not a Catholic?” “Yes,” he answered. “I can explain. Faith is a gift, and I have not yet received that gift.”(Frank Michalic in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

22) Film: Fisher King: This excellent movie is an exploration of the way in which the central character, a shock-jock radio host, seeks for forgiveness, having unwittingly incited a man to commit a massacre in a restaurant. He meets someone who has suffered a breakdown as a result of witnessing the massacre and tries in all sorts of ways to free himself of his own sense of guilt. The man he has met (played by Robin Williams), is convinced that the DJ has been sent to bring him a silver cup (actually a sporting trophy), which he thinks is the Holy Grail. The Robin Williams character repeatedly calls him to this task, but he dismisses it as ridiculous. Finally, though, when Robin Williams falls into a catatonic state, the repentant DJ realizes that, simply because the man needs the “grail” to get better he will retrieve it. The film strikes me as relevant to the theme of “call” because of the way in which it is circumstance, which compels the DJ, eventually, to do something only he can do. The act he is called to is ridiculous, but it is the doing of it which is really important. In fulfilling his “call” by doing something out of simple love, the DJ not only heals someone else but finds the freedom he has been seeking for himself. (Anonymous; from Text this Week; Quoted by Fr. Botelho).

23) 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 had 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; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

24) “You will not only walk someday, but you will run.” 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.” (James Valladares, in Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

25) 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; quoted by Fr. Botelho).


26) “Do you know where you’re going?” Years ago, the British agnostic Thomas Huxley had to leave early one morning to go from one speaking assignment to another, so he got into a horse-drawn taxi to go from his hotel to the train station. He assumed that the hotel doorman had told the driver of the carriage that they were to go to the train station. So when he got in, he simply said to the driver, “Drive fast.” Off they went. After a short while, Huxley, who was somewhat familiar with the area, realized that they were actually going in the opposite direction from the train station. He yelled to the driver, “Do you know where you’re going?” Without looking back, the driver replied, “No, sir, but I’m driving very fast.” Obviously, it doesn’t do much good to go fast if you’re not going in the right direction! Yet, many people, even Christians, are like that. Their lives are busy, they are going full bore, but they haven’t stopped to evaluate where they ought to be going. In Luke 5:1-11, we see the Lord Jesus helping some fishermen get their lives aimed in the right direction. (Bible.org)

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From Sermons.com
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
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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.