5th Sunday in Ordinary Time C
Let me be clear. There was a miracle on the Lake of Genneserat (aka Galilee) where the remarkable catch of fish was made. The newly called disciples needed that kind of encouragement. But it is a miracle born of common and valuable sense. Jesus tells them to, “Put out into deep water.” Simon Peter is skeptical. After all, they had been working hard and caught nothing. Besides, why should a carpenter tell fishermen how to fish? But Jesus is telling them more than to try again. He is asking them to try something new. To take a risk in trusting him. It is a risk for the deep water is more dangerous than the shallow. The waves are harsher and the safety of the shoreline is further away.
But something new is needed. I am no fisherman but I am pretty sure that you could have the best technique and the finest net money could buy, but if there ain’t no fish there, you are not going to catch any fish. It is an apt metaphor for the adventure they are about to take, leaving everything beyond to follow Jesus, far beyond the security of what they have known. But it also speaks to our church today and to each of us.
As a church, we are expert at using the tools we have always known. Our technique can be flawless and has had a history of success. Indeed, our plan for evangelization was to simply keep the doors open and people came streaming in. We had a secret weapon – it was called reproduction. But that does not same to be enough anymore. We cannot lower our net in the same empty spot and expect a different outcome. Instead we must head out in the deeper water and take chances. We must take the chance of telling our stories and force ourselves to invite others. We must share the experiences of peace and wholeness that brings us here today. The Church must put out into deep water to find its legitimate voice in speaking for those who are silenced: the unborn, the immigrant, the oppressed anywhere and everywhere. It is in the fringes, in the turbulent middle of the lake, that we might find our salvation.
Does it seem like a longshot? Well, I have good news. It can happen. Would you all agree that Niskayuna High School is deeper water? This past week, our young people made a list of 86 people to ask to go on the Journey retreat. Why? Because they had an experience, an encounter with God that they want to share. They are like Isaiah, “For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips,” who is encouraged by God and is able to say, “Here I am, send me!” (And thus we could have one hymn we all know.) Or like Paul, who persecuted the Church, whose very name brought fear to all Christians, whose experience of Jesus Christ led him to be the greatest promoter of the Gospel.
There are also the deep waters in our own life that we must sail into. There are places within us filled with fear and vulnerability. When we venture beyond the shore and confront what we would rather avoid, there too we discover a surprising abundance. Our pools of fear dissipate before the grace of our loving God.
In the fringes of our church, in the deep recesses of our soul, we discover truth and the truth we need to share. Let us not hesitate to put off into deeper water, to take risks to share the story of God’s love for us. Then we will lower our nets full of hope. We will find the place of abundance.