Image: Arctic Circle Crossing, Dempster Highway
The Gospel today invites us to look at the gulf that often exists between our own expectations and what God is calling us to if we trust in Him.
A number of years ago, while I was working as an associate pastor at our Redemptorist parish in Toronto I had the opportunity to travel to the east coast of Quebec, near the Labrador border. I was to say Easter Sunday mass on the Pakushippi Reserve, the home of a community of Montagnais Aboriginal people. I was a little nervous because I did not have much experience ministering to First Nations people. But I was also excited to go and full of expectation as to what I would see and learn.
While communication was a problem, as I spoke only English and the people, for the most part only spoke French or their native language, a dialect of the Innu language, with the help of a translator and the universal language of the liturgy, we managed to break down the barriers. During the Mass I blessed a large vessel of water for the rite of sprinkling and, at the end, I offered that people could take the water home for personal devotions. The translator explained what I had said and everyone got up and left, leaving the water behind.
I thought my work was over, it was disappointing that no one responded to the invitation to use the water but I was satisfied with the experience and was very happy to have had the opportunity to be with the people as they did not often get to see a priest. As I was packing up for the return snowmobile trip across the frozen river, where I would catch my flight home and get back to my real job, I heard the sound of other snow machines approaching the church. Those who had been at Mass were returning and they were bringing with them many of their neighbors who had not even been there that morning. Everyone had empty glass jars, that had once held pickles or mayonnaise or cheese whiz. Excitedly they entered the Church and, using the jars they had brought, took every last drop of the Holy Water.
I was moved by what I saw and my life was changed that morning. I had come for a weekend, expecting to have an experience, but seeing the deep faith of the people and their longing for something to touch and hold that reminded them of Jesus’ presence turned my heart and my vocation in a new direction. I had come expecting a few fish and instead I found my net overflowing.
In the Gospel Peter is back at his nets. He seems a bit lost since the terrible scene of Good Friday. Even though he has seen the risen Lord he is perhaps not sure where he stands, as he reflects back to how faithless he had been at the time of Jesus’ arrest and trial. Jesus approaches and asks Peter to trust him, to take a leap of faith, lower his nets once more and see what happens. Peter obliges and, in seeing his nets filled beyond expectation, his life is changed. He recognizes the risen Christ in his presence and he knows that, what ever happens next, he has found his direction.
An old Yiddish proverb tells us,
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
How often we sell ourselves short to others or even expect too little of ourselves particularly when it comes to sharing our faith or leading a more faith focused life. God has something bigger in store for you, are you willing to lower your net and see?