There’s a very old story about a man who went in search of our Lord. He looked and looked and looked. He searched everywhere, in cities, in the countryside, in deserts and in forests. And everywhere he went he would ask the people he met, “Do you know where I can find my Lord?” No one could answer him until one day an old woman said, “You can find him in a small hut at the edge of the forest.” And so, very excitedly, the man went to the hut and knocked on the door. From the other side of the door our Lord asked, “Who’s there?” And the man answered, “It’s me.” To which our Lord said, “There’s not enough room in here for both of us.” The man left very sad, going into the forest and there he stayed, and prayed and meditated upon what he’d heard. A few months later he goes back to the hut and again he knocks on the door. And again our Lord asks, “Who’s there?” This time the man answers differently saying, “It’s you!” To this answer the door opens and our Lord receives him.
To focus on the other is to “put out into deep waters.” To focus on the “you” of God and neighbor instead of focusing on the “me” is to put out into deep waters and to let grace invade.
2000 years ago there’s a man sitting on the beach at the Sea of Galilee. He’s very tired he’s had long night of work and he’s frustrated. He’s got to be, he’s worked all night and has nothing to show for it. No fish. It’s not easy for a man to come home to his wife after an exhausting day and say, “Honey, I worked hard all night long but I have nothing to show for it.” So here he is, cleaning his nets, and along comes this guy named Jesus. And behind Him is this huge, massive crowd of people. The crowd is so large that He stops in front of Peter, points to the boat off shore and asks, “Is that yours? Can I get into it and talk to the crowds from there?” “Sure,” Peter says. And so Jesus talks to the crowd from Peter’s boat for a while, as Peter continues to clean his nets. And then, when Jesus is done speaking, He turns to Peter and says, “Why don’t you put out into deep waters for a catch?”
Now at this point, you’ve got to believe that Peter’s a bit put out. Maybe even thinking, “Hey buddy, I didn’t tell you how to preach; don’t tell me how to fish!” What do you even know about fishing! Not much obviously, because no one fishes in the middle of the day, and especially not in deep waters! But there was something about Jesus that moved him, something about His voice and His expression that makes Peter think, “Okay, we’ll try one more time.” So out they row. And they throw out their nets, more out of duty than with any expectation, and he’s just about to haul them back in when, all of a sudden this school of fish, hundreds of fish, just pour into the net. Peter can’t believe it. He’s never seen this many fish before, and he’s lived on the lake for years. He and his brother Andrew, fill the nets and throw them onto the boat, which begins to sink, there are so many fish! And so they yell to their partners James and John, “Get your boat out here! There’s more fish than we’ve ever seen!” And they fill that boat too.
And then all of a sudden, in the midst of his euphoria, Peter turns and looks at Jesus in the back of the boat. And Jesus is just sitting there with His hands folded with a huge grin on His face. Like He knew what was going to happen. He knew the fish were there. And something comes over Peter, something he’s never experienced before, some awareness that he’s not just in the presence of a man, and he drops to his knees in front of Jesus and says, “Depart from me Lord. I am a sinful man.” In other words, “I don’t think I’m the kind of guy you’re looking for, Lord; I have one heck of a past. But Jesus just totally ignores that. And He looks Peter in the eye and reaching into his soul He says, “Do not be afraid.” Peter leaves everything behind and follows Jesus.
Peter has spent most of his life in the shallows of the spiritual life but with Jesus he is taken to the deep, an abundance of grace has invaded his life. One of the most important decisions we will ever make is whether or not we will cooperate with Jesus when he gets into our boat. Will we let him take us into the deep waters of His grace? And if we let Him, where might our Lord want to take us?
Is it to a deeper relationship with Him? Maybe we’ve had a thought in the back our mind for a long time now that we should spend more time praying. Maybe God has been nudging us to come to confession, and we’ve been ignoring Him. Or maybe he’s been gently inviting us to study our faith more, to get to know Him better, and we’ve been resisting.
If we let Him where might our Lord want to take us? Is it to a deeper and more meaningful relationship with others? Maybe there is someone we need to forgive, or ask forgiveness from. Maybe we need to cut off or pull back from a relationship that’s dragging us astray. Maybe we need to renew our commitment to someone we’ve been neglecting or taking for granted.
If we let Him where might our Lord want to take us? Is it our own character he wants us to deepen? Maybe we need to leave behind a hidden habit of dishonesty or self-indulgence. Maybe God is asking us to discipline a particular area of our life. Maybe we need to leave behind mediocrity and strive again for excellence in one of our responsibilities.
Pope St. John Paul II once said, “Put out into the deep. The command of Christ is particularly relevant in our time, when there is a widespread mentality which, in the face of difficulties, favors personal non-commitment… Whoever opens his heart to Christ will not only understand the mystery of his own existence, but also that of his own vocation; he will bear the abundant fruit of grace… Trust Christ; listen attentively to his teachings, fix your eyes on his face, persevere in listening to his Word. Allow Him to focus your search and your aspirations, all your ideals and the desires of your heart.” Message for World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 2005
Jesus is asking each one of us to put out into the deep water of His grace. He wants to live in a deep infinite relationship with each of us. With less focus on the selfish “me” and more on the “you” of God and neighbor. He wants to take you to the depths of His grace! And as He said to Peter, our Lord right now is reaching deep into your soul telling you, “Don’t be afraid.”
Let us be great Saints,
Rev. Christopher J. Ankley