by Fr Richard Heilman | March 20, 2016 1:26 AM
The Gospel story Pope John Paul II sets as the foundation for his new millennium appeal is the “Call of the First Disciples” (Lk 5:1-11). This is the classic scene in which Jesus tells Peter to “Put out into deep water (duc in altum), and let down the nets for a catch.” Peter’s response is: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” They proceed to catch the maximum amount of fish their nets can hold. Peter, filled with awe and wonder once he realizes he is in the presence of divinity, does not feel worthy to be called. But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be fishers of men.”
Why does the Holy Father choose this particular Gospel reading as the basis for his new millennium master plan? Because Peter’s words — “We’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything” — could not speak any more directly to the modern tsunami-like wave of secularism rolling across our planet, as well as our endless parade of parish programs that are mostly done as though God were not there (etsi Deus non daretur).
In other words, the story of the great catch is meant to show that when we try to move only under our own natural power without God (we’ve worked hard), we will flounder in the chaos of darkness (all night) and come up empty (caught nothing) every time. Jesus asks us to get in sync with him (to obey him) and not be afraid to set aside our superficial (man-powered) tendencies, as we enter the depths of a supernatural (God-powered) life.
Everything in the religious order — sacraments, devotions, teaching, scripture, moral discipline, preaching, etc. — is meant to bring us to this deeper state of being, to this Divine Connection. Jesus calls it “abiding” (Jn 15:4). The Latin for this is maneo which means “to remain” or “to stay” or “to endure” (or like the Marine Corps’ semper fi). This Divine Connection, this conformity to love, this participation in the Divine Life of God is the very power of the Holy Spirit and is referred to as being in a state of grace.
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