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Leaving “Everything”


“A fisherman is always hopeful…nearly always more hopeful than he has any right to be.” ~ Roderick Haig-Brow

Perhaps it was Charles W. Waterman who perfectly explained the plight and “simple” task of the fishermen. He succinctly states that “Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman's job is simple: Pick out the best parts.” In today’s Gospel (Luke 5:1-11), the man who would go on to become the Rock of our Church would appear to have been using rocks as bait. Yes, after a long and no doubt very disheartening night of fishing, the “best parts of the sea” had eluded Jesus’ close friend Peter.

Perhaps like many of you, I’ve often wondered how Peter, his fellow future Apostles James and John too for that matter, ever managed to make a living as fishermen. It would seem as though every time Scripture looks in on these men while busy at their craft, they never catch anything. In a separate incident, the prophet John writes of Peter’s futility in the beginning of the 21st Chapter of his Gospel. Make no mistake, as a fellow abysmal fisherman I can relate. The last time I went fishing, admittedly a very long time ago, the day’s haul consisted of one 10” sand shark and one broken reel, the latter the result of the feistiness of the former, the previously aforementioned 10” sand shark. There is a reason that the last time I went fishing was indeed a very long tone ago. But I digress.

“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” This was Jesus’ command to Peter as today’s story unfolds. “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,” he replies. I’ve always thought that Peter got something of a bad rap in this exchange. Could it have been that in these words he was merely venting, something that all of us are inclined to do from time to time? I say this because as we read on, we see that immediately after bemoaning his fishless fate, he does precisely what Jesus tells him to do. Perhaps it was out of divine obedience or maybe Peter was merely taking a cue from professional bass fisherman Kevin VanDam, who once said “A positive attitude and an open mind are true characteristics of all good fishermen,” but he did in fact promptly lower his nets. The catch was overwhelming.

As the story concludes, Luke tells us that Peter, James and John “left everything and followed him.” (5:11). These men and nine others would begin their new endeavor asfishers of men (Mark 1:17, Matthew 4:19).

Scottish novelist, politician and historian John Buchan once said “The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” So it goes for those who seek to bring the transformative message of the Gospel into a hardened and extremely distracted world. We too are called to leave everything in our lives and our souls that is not of God so that in doing so, in emptying ourselves, we can in turn be filled with the Father’s grace, Jesus’ redemptive mercy, and the sublime Gifts of the Holy Spirit. These of which I speak are, in reality, everything. That which one leaves behind, the trivialities, the vanities, the soon-to-be moth-eaten trinkets and footnotes of a fleeting world, are in reality nothing. Not against the backdrop of eternity. This is why the word everything is in quotes in the title of today’s Reflection. What the world views as everything is, for the most part, nothing in the eyes of God. What exactly are you truly leaving behind?

Did you bring others to God, doing so largely by way of example? Was holiness your chief pursuit? As the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen was fond of saying, “To save souls we must be holy. God does not use dirty tools.” As members of Christ’s mystical body, we are all called not only to lower our nets, but to then subsequently drop them. To unabashedly and unflinchingly follow Jesus. Because tangled and entwined in these nets are the things of this world. Our pursuit should be heavenly glory. For to quote author Robert Rogers, “If we blow it on this single issue, nothing else matters.”

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