Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Peter's Miracle

I was listening to a homily at my son's graduation mass. It frustrated me because I saw the potential for such a good homily from this gospel. We got a series of nice wishes that could have easily come from a secular person. So I did something I probably should not do. I started to compose a better homily in my head. Still, having lost some of my blogging momentum, I thought I would try and share of those thoughts here. The gospel was Luke 5:1-11:

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.
What we see here is Peter having an encounter with Jesus. Peter is a fisherman. He has fished all night. Yet he has not caught any fish. This is a symbol of emptiness. Peter's is working hard and things are not working out. He has done nothing wrong. Yet the blessings are not coming.

This happens to people. Sometimes they are even doing quite well materially. Yet they feel they are empty. They work very hard and feel like they are getting nowhere. Often it is because they have not found their vocation. We need to know we are created by God with a purpose in mind. If we are doing something other than what we were created for it is never going to be quite satisfying.

So what do we do? We go to Jesus. Peter does that. He calls Jesus “Master.” He lets Jesus use his boat. He is comfortable with Jesus to a point. We can be like that. We come to a graduation mass. We are comfortable with Catholicism to a point.

Then Jesus tells Peter to “put out into the deep water.” St John Paul reflected on this and saw Jesus inviting us to go deeper with Him. To go beyond the shallow religious observance and let Jesus into the deeper thinking of your life. When you ask: Who am I? What kind of career should I pursue? What kind of marriage and family life do I want? What kind of person do I want to be? When you go out into those kind of deep waters then take Jesus with you. Let Him be your master even there.

What follows is a personal miracle. Something that amazed Peter but someone who is not a fisherman would think, So what? This can happen to you. When you let God into you personal place of failure and give Him control He can work miracles that will amaze you and only you. He shows not only His power but also a willingness to tailor that power to precisely your frustrations.

This touches Peter deeply. He knows that Jesus is much more that just his master or rabbi. He is Lord. That is a word used in the Greek scriptures to refer to God. He gets it. I am not dealing with someone who has some interesting ideas about God and life and whatnot. I am in the presence of the divine.

Yet he reacts in a way we might find somewhat strange. He asks Jesus to leave. Why? Because Peter has something darker than his failures. He has his sin. Like the song says:
When you feel my heat
Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close
It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide
It’s where my demons hide
Peter would relate to a song like that. He has things about which he is quite rightly ashamed. He was hiding them from Jesus. They were just to embarrassing to face. Now he knows he cannot do that. You can't come close to God and keep any secrets. So he tells Jesus to go.

What comes next is a relief for Peter but also for every one of us. Jesus tells him not to be afraid. That He has great plans for Peter. It is a relief for all of us because we all have those demons hidden somewhere. It means we can come to God as sinners and not be afraid. It means we can still become what God intended us to become despite having made some mistakes. Even if we have some things we do over and over that are not very nice and perhaps downright despicable we don't have to be afraid of God. We can be honest and we will be loved.

What is more, that does not put us at the back of the line in terms of God. You need to understand that we are all sinners. Jesus used Peter powerfully despite the fact that he messed up quite a few more times. The powerful thing is he knows he is a sinner. He knows he needs forgiveness and Jesus is willing to give it. That is the first step to being a great saint.