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Catching and Letting Go
Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
Opening Prayer: Lord, on this feast of St. Gregory the Great, I come to you with a humble heart, asking you to guide and protect your beloved pastors to truly be “shepherds of souls.” I pray for our bishops and priests, especially those who are struggling, lonely, doubting, tired, and burdened by the weight of the cross. You ask weak and frail men to come after you and follow you to become fishers of men. Take away our fear; strengthen us in our weakness in the battle of faith. For the love of you and your pastors, I offer the big and small challenges of this day believing they matter immensely to you. I believe in you, Lord; increase my faith, nourish my hope, and teach me to love as you love.
- Getting into the Boat: Once again, we see the compelling attraction of Jesus as the crowds followed and were “pressing round” him. Jesus had cured many people and had preached in the synagogues all over Judea, and now he sought the aid of a few fishermen and their boat to teach the crowds. He wanted us to help him. God isn’t interested in doing everything by himself. He asked Peter to row out from the shore so he could more effectively speak to the crowds. From this moment Jesus began to enlist men and women generous enough to lend themselves to his cause. Jesus doesn’t want to impose his kingdom, but to enter freely into walking right alongside us. What area of my life is Christ inviting me to open up to him? Where is he asking me to offer “my boat,” to help him in witnessing to and making his word known?
- Weary and Complaining Hearts: There are many times and many ways we become despondent about the limits of our human efforts and judgments—from fully accepting what God asks of us through the church’s teachings, to making sense of current cultural conflicts in the world around us, even to questioning if our apostolic efforts will bear fruit. These moments are precisely where Our Lord wants us to be transformed and surpass our natural understanding with supernatural faith. With the miraculous catch of fish, his command over the natural world revealed how worthy he is of our trust. Our Lord knew Peter’s stubborn heart and asked him to “put out into deep water and lower [his] nets for a catch.” He was capturing the future Pope’s skeptical heart and transforming it into a humble obedient heart. How many times do we hesitate to follow this same invitation from the Lord? Do I believe that when I make an act of trust in God to obey his will, even when my human nature resists, God will grant me a greater experience of his goodness and bring me closer to him?
- Letting Go and Leaving It All Behind: The disciples had fished all night and caught nothing. They had surrendered to the disappointment that they would have nothing to sell at the marketplace. How would they provide for their families? Then, at the word of Jesus, their nets were overflowing, tearing, and sinking their boats. Thousands of fish—an unfathomable abundance that could change their fortunes. Yet “they left everything and followed him.” How did they walk away if they didn’t believe something better was ahead of them? They had been captivated by the person of Jesus. That catch of fish was nothing compared to what Jesus offered and promised. We too are to “seek first the kingdom of God.” Jesus doesn’t give us financial security or absolute certainties when he calls us—rather Jesus promises that if we follow him, he will provide. What does this mean for me? Where might the Lord be inviting me to let go and trust in his providence, obeying him with a humble heart?
Conversing with Christ: O Lord, I know what it is to feel my judgments challenged and my faith stretched to believe in you working through your church, especially when I see the failings and disappointments of its human reality. You continue to guide and direct the faithful through your pastors and the magisterium of the church. I want to commit myself in faith, faith in your chosen instrument of salvation. I too, like Peter, resist at first and need to be reminded by faith that it is you who are asking. I want to live by this light of faith and freedom to respond to and obey your commands. Give me the strength and hope to do what it is you ask of me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will accept whatever you ask, believing that it is for my good and for the good of your kingdom. I will turn especially to the experience of the saints, who gave their lives for your kingdom, asking their intercession without hesitation or measure, to fulfill all my daily duties with goodness of heart, love, and trust in you.
For Further Reflection: Prayer for Priests by St. Therese of Lisieux (1893-1897)
Daily Prayer for Priests
I pray for your faithful and fervent priests;
for your unfaithful and tepid priests;
for your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields;
for your tempted priests;
for your lonely and desolate priests;
for your young priests;
for your dying priests;
for the souls of your priests in Purgatory.
But above all, I recommend to you the priests dearest to me:
the priest who baptized me;
the priests who absolved me from my sins;
the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me your body and blood in holy Communion;
the priests who taught and instructed me;
all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way.
O Jesus, keep them all close to your heart,
and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.
Written by Lucy Honner, CRC.
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