Image: Abandoned Fishing Boat, Paulatuk
The Gospel today finds Peter returning to his previous vocation and 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.
Peter is back at his boat tending the 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 on 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.
While such a miracle might seem like the typical exaggeration that we might expect from a sleep deprived fisherman I can attest to a similar event that happened to me.
It occurred a number of years ago when I was a priest living in Toronto and I received the opportunity to travel to a small First Nations community in northern Quebec to celebrate Easter.
Communication was a problem, as I spoke only English and the people, for the most part only spoke French or their first language, but 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 trip home to get back to my “real job”, I heard snowmobiles approaching the church. It was those who had been at Mass returning and, with them they were 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, which was the beginning of my journey to become a northern missionary. I had come expecting a few fish and instead I found my net overflowing.
An old Yiddish proverb tells us,
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”
How often we sell ourselves short and expect too little from God, particularly when it comes to sharing our faith or leading a more faith focused life. God has something bigger in store for you, if you willing to lower your net and see.