5th Sunday of OT Year C:
Our readings for today’s mass focus on discipleship. Jesus tells his disciples to set out into deep waters. John Paul II would often reflect on these words. He thought this image of being on deep water captured what it means to live our faith in the world. Deep water can be dangerous and intimidating, but in those deep water we find the great catch of fish. So, the idea is not to run away from the world, but to engage it as disciples of Jesus. About these words, John Paul wrote, “These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm and to look forward to the future with confidence: ‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’”
First, we are to remember the past with gratitude. St. Paul says it so well today, “I handed on to you what I first received.” It is true that we believe in the timelessness and eternity of God. But, the eternal Word of God became man and dwelt among us. As a result, Christianity is a historical religion. As I say often, we do not believe in Jesus-ness, these stories are not mere myths. We believe that a historical concrete person was in fact the eternal Son of God. So, remembering the past with gratitude is an essential component to Christian life. By remembering all that God has done for us, we should be filled with joy. God loved us so much that he sent his son to be with us, and Jesus offered his life for the salvation of the world. How often do we stop to remember this amazing truth? Hopefully every day! Actually, every time we celebrate the holy Mass, this is precisely what we are doing. By celebrating these mysteries they become new again in front of us. Setting out into deep water is challenging and intimidating, and we will only have the courage to do this if we recall the life, death, and resurrection of Christ our savior.
When we celebrate these great mysteries they come alive for us in the here and now. This is why we are able to live the present with enthusiasm. For Christians, Christ is a real historical person, but he never remains a person stuck in the past. Christ is just as present to us now as he was to St. Peter in our gospel story today. When we live a life of faith, Christ dwells in us and works through us. With Christ present and active within us we find a boundless source of energy to carry out his work his mission. And we shouldn’t worry too much about our own weaknesses and sinfulness, Isaiah said he was a man of unclean lips, Peter said depart from me Lord, Paul reminds us today that he persecuted the Christians. But, God worked great things through these people. If we acknowledge our weaknesses, then rely on God’s strength, we will see that we can live the present with great enthusiasm for the faith.
Finally, John Paul tells us to look forward to the future with confidence. By reflecting on the past, and living the present tense with Christ present and active in our lives, we will be ready for whatever the future might bring. If tomorrow brings joy and prosperity, we will give thanks. If tomorrow brings sadness and affliction, we will call on God for help. No matter what tomorrow brings, we put our trust in Christ who said: behold I am with you always until the end of the world.
Living our faith in these interesting times can be quite a challenge. Sometimes it seems like the culture is directly opposed to Christian living. But, with these three principles in mind, we can have the courage to put out into deep water, to live our faith with enthusiasm so as to bring it to a new generation.
This week has been a sad week for our diocese. We lost a beloved shepherd and mentor this week with the death of our bishop emeritus John D’Arcy. But, I think it is fitting that this gospel passage is our reading for the week, because I often heard Bishop D’Arcy referring to these words. And I feel that Bishop D’Arcy truly lived John Paul II’s call.
He gratefully remembered the past, he was certainly a man of Catholic faith and conviction. There was nothing he liked better than celebrating the mass and preaching about Christ and all he had done for us. He certainly lived the faith with great enthusiasm. He was remarkable, I never met someone as hard-working. He was always on the go, but he always made time for us. And, he certainly looked to the future with confidence, even in his last moments he was praising God and prayerful. Bishop D’Arcy will truly be missed by all of us. But, I will miss him especially because I saw in him someone who was not afraid to put out into deep water.