But if you say so … (Homily for Close of Year of Consecrated Life)
“Master”, Simon replied, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will pay out the nets”.
This is a very powerful Gospel story. Every word and phrase is worth reflecting on.
What strikes me most today is the moment Jesus asked Peter to “put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”. Peter had spent the whole night fishing to no avail, not a sprat. He is no doubt exhausted, weary, disheartened. It is at this very moment when futility is staring him in the face and he must have been close to rock bottom that Jesus invites him to “put out into the deep water…”
And look what happens. “They netted such a large number of fish that their nets began to tear,” and they cry out to their companions and the two boats are filled to sinking point with fish.
Abundance beyond imagining. The same thing as happened at Cana, at the beginning of the Gospel of St. John.
Obedience is everything, it seems. Obedience in the original and true sense of the word: willingness at all times to listen to Jesus’ word, his invitation, his call. Jesus’ word is always one of encouragement, of trust in us and of challenge. And invariably when we take it deep into our hearts and act upon it, it bears fruit in abundance, filling us with hope.
There are so many other attractive and alluring voices all around in the times we live in. Today is Temperance Sunday, a day that reminds us that we have to be discerning, careful, and moderate in what we receive and consume and take into ourselves. Prophets of Doom abound today, for example. We can easily find ourselves among them.
When the times seem lean and unpromising, as they do for vocations today, to priesthood and religious life, the Gospel we have just heard, holds out a great promise. Like Peter on the lakeshore, worn out by the seeming futility of his labours, to take Jesus’ word to heart is critical. He will not deceive nor let us down. Abundance, it seems, will always follow our putting our trust completely in him. This especially we must do when things are at their bleakest.
Mary knew this at Cana. Quietly, peacefully, but with supreme confidence and faith, she spoke to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you”. That is exactly what you and I committed ourselves to long ago in our youth. He is incapable of letting us down or deceiving us, no matter what the appearances.
So, what better way to conclude this Year for Consecrated Life than by renewing our commitment to him, and our determination to listen to him in his word every day and indeed every moment of our lives. If we must talk of work and mission, this is always our first work and our primary mission.
Together then let us renew our vows and our commitment to Jesus Christ and to his Body, the Church:
With gratitude for all that has been, and led by the Spirit, I come today
- To renew my commitment to live my vow of chastity with love and compassion
- To renew my vow of poverty aware of the abundance of God that calls us to generous sharing
- To renew my vow of obedience, to be available for God’s mission and purpose in our world
For this and all your gifts, Father of Mercy, I give thanks,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.