Fr. Paul's Homily (St. Agnes)
Marianne Siebert of Florence, Kansas, decided to visit their elderly neighbors, the McLindens, a mile and a half up the road. The weather was perfect so Marianne saddled her 12-year-old Arabian stallion. Upon arrival, she dismounted and, reins in hand, approached the back door. Apparently, her neighbor had polished the glass in the storm door, because it shone like a mirror. Marianne knocked twice and waited with her horse, Phar, at her shoulder. She decided her neighbors weren't home and started to leave when she noticed that Phar was staring at the gray stallion in the glass with fascination. He squealed and pawed. So did the other stallion. He was staring, of course, at his own reflection.
Marianne tugged on Phar's reins, and he refused to move. Marianne was beginning to get a bad feeling. She became more forceful and tugged and slapped Phar with the reins. Then he moved all right. He swung around, and with both hind feet, bashed in the door! Glass flew down the inside stairs, the metal grillwork caved in. At that point, Marianne was sweating bullets and was just about to beat a hasty retreat when, from inside the house, she heard Mrs. McLinden call to her husband, "Bud, I think there's someone at the door."
"I could have strangled Phar," says Marianne. "Instead, I helped Mr. and Mrs. McLinden clean up the glass, promised to pay for the door and got out of there. My reputation, however, soon was widespread throughout the county: `If Marianne Siebert comes to visit, be sure and get there after the first knock, or she'll kick in your door.'
Our readings this weekend are all about hearing the ‘knock’ at the door. In the Old Testament reading, Isaiah heard the call to become the prophet of God; in the reading from Corinthians, St. Paul speaks of hearing the call to become an apostle of Jesus; and in the Gospel, Peter hears the call to become Jesus’ fisher of people. So, let’s talk about the call, especially in relationship to the Gospel where Jesus calls Peter and his companions.
In Luke’s Gospel we find ourselves at the beginning of Jesus ministry when, even though only one miracle has been recorded, Jesus already is attracting huge crowds. In our story today, Jesus is on the sea shore and a large crowd has developed by the water. Realizing that the crowd was pushing in upon him and his back was up against the edge of the water, he asked Peter to get into his boat and put out a few feet from shore. Once in the boat, Jesus could use the water as a buffer with the crowd. In this first recorded conversation between Jesus and Peter, Our Lord only asked for a small favor, “Can I use your boat as a pulpit a few feet off shore?”
Has Jesus ever drawn you in by giving you a little task,that would become much larger? Someone asked you to lector at Mass and the next thing you know, you are in charge of lectors; you decide to help once a week at St. Vincent de Paul, and before you know it, you are running the warehouse. A few months ago, we had a woman in the parish who had lost her husband who was only in his sixties, as was she. I asked her if she could give a ride to an elderly lady to church who lived in the same retirement village. Little did she know that she would become the primary caregiver to the lady!! Thanks, Fr. Paul!! Sometimes God ask us to take a little step which leads to a much larger one.
Once Jesus had completed his preaching, he ask Peter to put out into the deep water and lower the nets for a catch. Remember, Peter is the fisherman who grew up on the Sea of Galilee. He probably knew the lake like the back of his hand. Jesus grew up in Nazareth, 15 miles away and probably never saw the lake until he started his ministry. Peter knows fishing and there was no reason for him to believe that Jesus knew anything about fishing. Yet, Jesus was telling Peter how to fish!
It took humility and trust for Peter to lower those nets. Perhaps Peter rolled his eyes, or let out a big sigh: “Whatever you want Jesus!”
One of my favorite Old Testament quotes is, “A humble, contrite heart you will not spurn, O Lord.” A humble heart is often the best heart to receive the Lord. Has God ever asked you humble yourself? Have you ever had to let go of your pride for the sake of love? Recently, I was speaking with a grandmother who was helping her daughter who had just had her first child at age 35. Grandma had her understanding of how to care for a baby; and the new mother had her ideas of how to care for HER new baby…and the ideas did not match. Guess what? Grandma has to humble herself; grandma had to step back and allow her daughter to be the mother; just like Peter had to lower the net even though he knew far more about fishing than Jesus did.
And of course, we know what happened! The caught so many fish that Peter had to call for help from their other boat of James and John’s…till both boats were almost sinking!! Peter knew immediately that this was not a lucky catch…this was a miracle! Peter knew immediately that he was in the presence of a holy man of God. What was Peter’s response? He felt to his knees and said, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
We don’t know what Peter meant by this, being a sinful man. Probably he meant that he was not a typical, holy person; he cussed a little, wasn’t as strict with the Mosaic Law as the Pharisees wanted; maybe he rough around the edges and just wasn’t the religious type. Would there be anyone here that might nod their head at this self-evaluation? Anyone cuss a little; not be too strict with the rules; perhaps would be a little rough around the edges. If so, you might understand Peter’s response to Jesus. In so many words, Peter was telling Jesus, “You could do a lot better than me! I’m just not the holy type.”
But, apparently Jesus did not want the ‘holy type’. In fact, none of the 12 apostles came from the ‘holy type’.
I love Jesus’ response! He does not blink an eye at Peter’s objections! He simply brushes by Peter’s words and calls Peter in a radical way: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” As if Jesus is saying, “I know you are a sinner, Peter, but you are so much more than that. Peter I see you, the real you, and what I see is a man who is able to give his all; a man who has a passion for life; a man who is very human and I love that. Peter, we will deal with your sins in time. Just follow me! Trust me!”
And the story ends with Peter leaving everything and following Jesus. Peter made the leap, with a humble, trusting heart, and followed the Lord.
The journey of a vocation is often made up of small steps which we take toward a goal, requiring lots of trust and humility. But sometimes we are asked to take the big leap when we invest ourselves 100%; when we simply trust God, with no security strings attached. Thursday night I was meeting with a young couple who are preparing for marriage. In our discussion, we talked about the questions of “Intention” that occur immediately prior to the vows. The first question is, “Have you come here freely, without reservation, to give yourselves to each other in marriage?” Those words, “Have you come here freely, without reservation” speak of this total sense of commitment; the willingness to say ‘yes’ to each other without an ‘if’ clauses (e.g. “I’ll love you if”). I told the couple that I like to compare this to skydiving! With skydiving, we can have the best equipment, the best instructor, the best weather, the best plane…but we still have to jump out of the plane! And you can’t jump “a little bit” or you can’t hang on with one hand. You just have to jump!!
My friends, sometimes the Lord calls us with little steps that require only a little trust. But, there are other times when he is asking us to go skydiving with Him! He is asking us to completely and freely, jump! This is what it means to have a vocation…when you are willing to give it all with a lot of trust and humility.
Have you jumped lately!?