A SERMON FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
When our blessed Lord tells a very weary St. Peter to “launch out into the deep and let down your nets,” the old fisherman is taken by surprise. “We have toiled all the night and have taken nothing,” he exclaims. He doesn’t understand why he should have to put his nets back on the boat and set off again to do more useless fishing. However, despite his lack of enthusiasm for what he thinks will be a waste of time, he nevertheless complies with our Lord’s request: “At thy word I will let down the net.” The result? They catch more fish than will fit in their two boats. “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
To summarize: Peter wastes his time; Jesus tells him to persevere; Peter perseveres; Peter succeeds; Peter becomes aware of the divine power of Jesus. Peter forsakes all and follows him. It’s a pattern that is set before us in today’s Gospel for a reason. After all, how frustrated are we that our efforts never seem to meet with any success. We try to succeed at all manner of things: on the natural level, we try to save money but can’t because of inflation, we try to vote for good politicians only to find out the elections are rigged, we watch in vain as hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants cross our southern border without hindrance, we watch the justice system blatantly flaunting any idea of justice by its continued protection of left-wing monsters like Hilary Clinton, Hunter Biden, George Soros, and so on, while it persecutes the God-fearing men and women who dare to protest against stolen elections, abortion, and so on… the list goes on and on. And that’s only on the natural level of frustration. Meanwhile on the spiritual level, we try rearing our children to become good Catholics, converting our friends and families to the traditional and true faith, we keep trying to preserve our Catholic culture and traditions, or to persuade our neighbors that certain ways of life or actions are morally unacceptable, while popes and bishops actively work against us. Again, the list seems to have no end. Frustration wherever we turn! Like Peter we feel we’ve been toiling all the night long and haven’t caught a single thing.
Faced with this level of exasperation and disappointment, we’re down to a basic choice. We can either give up, put our nets away and go home empty; or we can launch out again into the deep and let down those nets once more. There is no question which choice our Lord wants us to make. And while we may be exasperated beyond measure to have to try again, let’s take our inspiration from St. Peter our first Pope and Prince of the Apostles, who was equally unenthusiastic, but who agreed nonetheless to our Lord’s command to persevere. With trust in God, all things are possible, and we must never lose that hope and trust in him. We must echo the words of the 90th Psalm, “I will say unto the Lord, Thou art my hope, and my stronghold; my God, in him will I trust. For he shall deliver me from the snare of the hunter, and from the noisome pestilence.”
And if we do suffer in this present time from many a noisome pestilence, St. Paul reckons that these sufferings “are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed to us.” No matter how many times we bang our heads against the proverbial brick wall, there will come a day when we shall be vindicated. At all costs, avoid falling for that old axiom, “if you can’t beat them, join them.” Again, turn to the 90th Psalm: “A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand; * but it shall not come nigh thee.” So turn neither to right nor left, but stay the course. The reward will surely come, maybe in our own lifetime—it’s possible we may live to see the day when justice is meted out fairly to all God’s children, and to the sons of the Devil also. No matter though, as one day the trumpet shall sound and the Day of Judgment shall fall upon us. Justice shall prevail!
In anticipation of the inevitability of this success, we should comfort ourselves with that certain knowledge of the divine power of our Saviour. Because he has given us free will, he doesn’t always intervene to change things. But that power is ever before us, and we never know when it will be made manifest. Like Peter, we are sinful men, and with him we fall to our knees before God. And like him also, we should hear Christ’s words ringing in our ears: “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
To succeed we must take that last step of St. Peter, forsaking all, and following him. We must take heed to our Lord’s reminder to think outside the box—success comes not in catching the fish we set out to catch, but in catching men’s souls. We have to forsake everything else, all those apparently good attachments to our efforts to go after what we want. We have to give all those up, at least our obsessions with succeeding in whatever we’re going after. Instead, we need to place ourselves at God’s disposal. Let him show us what we should really be trying to do. Then we can shed ourselves of our vain attempts to do what we’re aiming for, and concentrate instead on what God wants from us. Forsaking all! This is what’s meant by forsaking all and following Christ—the abandonment of self, and the formation of a new, more meaningful attachment to the things of God. This will make sense out of our temporary frustrations, and as St. Paul tells us, will deliver us from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.