Guided by a story from Luke’s Gospel known by two names ‘the calling of the first disciples’ and ‘miraculous catch of fish’. Either way you look at it, fishing stands at the centre of this story and that becomes our main focus. It was after our Lord and Master had finished reading from the scrolls of the prophet Isaiah in the synagogue. He has also been busy healing people and casting out demons and so the word is getting out about this man and crowds following him are really beginning to grow quite large. The crowd is swelling around Jesus to listen to him. He needs to move away a bit so that the crowd may hear him speak and since there were fishermen with their boats nearby cleaning their nets; Jesus calls to one and asks him to take him out a little way so he can continue teaching the people. It is at this point that fishing begins. Having taught them, Jesus looks over to Simon and says, “Go out a little further, to the deep water, and cast your nets.” Now, even the most novice fishermen know that fishing in daylight is pretty pointless. Fishing is done late into the night or very early in the morning if one wants to have a big catch.
This is exactly what Simon and companions have been doing all night long with no luck. So Simon’s hesitation is normal and understandable when Jesus asks him to cast the nets deep again. He has just come off a long night on the water and caught nothing, the nets have been cleaned and put away and Jesus ‘a carpenter of all things’ is trying to instruct Simon the master fishermen to cast the nets deep and begin fishing again. We can all imagine Simon’s frustration and the excuses must have flowed easily; ‘Really? I have not caught anything all night, I have just put my nets away and you want me to start fishing now. I do not want to go through this again! Why me? James and John are just by the lake too, why do not you ask them? But fortunately enough in the end Simon complies, “well alright… because you say so, I will drop the nets.”
At this point the miracle starts, once Simon dropped the nets into the water, they were filled so full they began to tear and he called out to his companions for help because the boat was on the verge of sinking because of fish. Jesus wants to bless us but before he blesses us he wants our contribution too. What is our contribution as lay professionals? Grace builds on nature. He asks us to use our stuff, he calls us to offer our resources, to put our things at his disposal, but ultimately it is so that he can bless us with a great catch. Just like what you have done, you have put your faith, your time, your resources and your very selves at God’s disposal and surely you be blessed. Yet how many times have we made excuses like Simon when Jesus calls us. We find ourselves giving different excuses as to why we cannot properly execute our duties as Catholic Lay Professionals, why we cannot become missionaries? why we cannot carry out different mission activities of the Church. We rationalize that we are serving God in other ways or that someone else is taking care of it and so we do not need to do this, that, or the other. In fact it is probably kind of comforting to see that the disciples made excuses when Christ called upon them.
And yet, the result is a clear testimony that we have to accept God’s demands in order to have a big catch. After all excuses Simon finally gave in and look what happened. The Lord wanted to bless Simon after a particularly trying night, and so he called on him to push out his boat, to head for the deep waters and to cast his nets just one more time. And indeed, Simon was blessed with a miraculous catch. Christ wants to bless us too. But in order for that to happen, we have to be willing to part with our resources, not just when it is convenient or when we don’t need them anymore, but all the time, so that they are there just at the right moment. Jesus is asking for our own contribution for us to accomplish his mission. Self-sacrifice is all we can give to the Lord for evangelization to take place.
Just like the disciples who gave away all their families, boats and nets, fields et cetera for the sake of the Gospel. It is imperative then that we stop making excuses and recognize the blessings that come through willing and faithful service to God. Further, we have to step out of our ‘comfort zones’ and head for the deep waters.
Now the question each one of you must ask him/herself is; have I really stepped out of my comfort zone? Does stretching out yourself partaking in the mission of Christ take you out of your comfort zone? Does making a contribution to the development of your parish and the whole Church at large take you out of your comfort zone? Does participating in prayer groups and other spiritual activities take you out of your comfort zone? Does it stretch you? Does it take you to the deeper waters? Real life is in the deeper waters, that is where we encounter the Lord, where we get direction, where we get empowered, where we are bound to be changed for the better and the source of evangelization.
In the Jewish tradition, the sea was considered a dark and scary place. It was commonly held that all demons reside there. You remember also when Jesus casted out the demons from the two demoniacs and drove the demons right into the herd of pigs which later drowned in the sea, Mk 5:1-20. The sea was a manifestation of the realm of death. In Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus walked on water because the boats had been swept on the other side of the sea due to heavy winds, and when the disciples saw him, they thought it was a ghost. In Mark 4:35-41, we read the story of Jesus calming down the storm on the lake whilst they were aboard a boat with the disciples. The disciples shouted, “Save us Lord, we are perishing”. This basically translates that the Jews were people of the land who were generally uncomfortable with the sea. So for the Jews, ‘going into the deep waters’ is not something they would just do without a lot of consideration of the wind and tides and weather, and all the other things that can make the deep ocean a scary place to be.
So when Jesus directs Simon to the deeper waters right then and there, without a moment to think, Simon must have been a bit apprehensive, just as we get apprehensive when Christ stretches us and pushes us to new places and new ventures. Today some of you are graduating and the Lord will take you to new places and new ventures. But are you willing to go there? Are you willing to venture to places with Christ; places that scare you a little bit like Somalia, Sudan, Haiti, Syria and the Central African Republic just to mention a few? For us, these are some of the deep waters. Civil wars are wreaking havoc in these nations and thousands of people are being displaced and forced to migrate into nearby countries without food, clothes, medication and counseling. For our faith to be deep, we have to be willing to go with Christ to the deeper waters. Therefore, cast your nets deep into the waters and have a great catch.
Jesus approached Simon who was working, doing what he did every day. Jesus did not ask him to do something different, to become a carpenter, or a mechanic. Jesus worked with him right there in the same boat, with the same nets, on the same sea where Simon always worked. Hence the saying,
“bloom where you are planted” have a clear meaning here. We are all good at something and we have to manifest that goodness to the whole world for the salvation of mankind. A razor blade is sharper than an axe, but it cannot cut down a tree, hence the need to recognize some goodness in each and every person. “Munhu munhu nevamwe” and ‘no man is an island’. Thomas Merton in his book, No Man is an Island, writes; “My successes are not my own, the way to them have been prepared by others; neither are my failures my own, they may spring from the failures of another, but they are also compensated by the successes of another”. St Paul talks of different spiritual gifts and parts of the body but all working together for the one and same body, 1 Corinthians 12. Our work and our mission as Catholic Lay Professionals are not separate things. Let us encounter Christ in that mission and work and bring the good news by our way of life. This is where we are every day, these are the people we know and the people who know us, whether its colleagues or family. And Christ wants to go with us to work; he wants to help us there, because that is where the blessings and miracles are most likely to happen. We cannot ever forget that our job, whatever it may be, is our mission.
Christ calls us just the way we are, and he calls us to work right where we are. Jesus climbs in the boat with us; he steps into our lives, our homes, our work places and he says, “I want you to come with me. I want you to follow me and do this work, except on an even larger scale.” We can try and run from it like Jonah, we can throw spanners into this mission like Saul, and we can throw out all excuses we want like the Moses, but that does not change God’s call. The will of the Father shall be manifested, and His will is carried out through us. You do not have to be perfect; it does not matter if you have made some terrible mistakes in your lives. Remember every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. You do not have to sell everything you have and take off for Sudan, Central African Republic or Syria, you just need to be willing to say everyday “Jesus, everything I have is yours;” Make me an instrument of peace, love, joy and hope to all the people. This is exactly going into the deeper waters and accomplishing the mission of Christ.
Christ’s instruction to the Apostles was a great call to those who became the first bishops and the first missionaries of the Church. They were instructed to go the nations, to those who had no knowledge of Christ and to proclaim the Gospel. The Apostles were faithful and obedient carriers of the Good News of Christ, his Church has grown and flourished. Be that as it may, the responsibility for fulfilling that mandate does not rest with the bishops and missionaries alone, but extends to all the people of God. Going to the nations is now your chief mandate from Christ the Master of the harvest and in this way we shall all make known God’s love and mercy.
Ad Gentes No. 6 defines ‘Missions,’ “as those particular undertakings by which the heralds of the Gospel, sent out by the Church and going forth into the whole world, carry out the tasks of preaching the Gospel and planting the Church among the peoples or groups who do not yet believe in Christ…The proper purpose of this missionary activity is evangelization”.
However, this mission is far from complete. There are still many young churches that need missionaries to develop and grow. There are many dioceses and countries struggling with poverty, persecution, oppression, wars and immense suffering that need missionaries to witness to the light
and love of Christ, bringing hope for the future. You have become missionaries in another dimension, and the world is looking up to you to fulfill the mandate as prescribed in the Redemptoris Missio No.31, which states that; “Therefore all Catholics, by reason of their incorporation into the Church at Baptism, should fully participate and cooperate in Christ’s on-going mission ‘to the nations.” To accomplish this mission, we have to lead by example and live as brothers and sisters. In so far as we are not yet able to live amicably as brothers and sisters in spite of race, color, creed, tribe, gender, sex, wealth et cetera, evangelization is still very far from completion. There are so many examples attesting to this. Not so long ago our brothers and sisters were brutally murdered in South Africa when xenophobia raised its ugly tail. In Nigeria Muslims and Christians do not see each other eye to eye thereby continuously attacking each other even during prayer times. In Kenya Christian churches are under attack from extreme Muslims who are fighting to have Kenyan soldiers in Somalia removed. In South Sudan thousands of innocent souls have been killed and displaced due to civil wars. In Central African Republic there is no peace and in Syria the war has taken so long due to other self-ulterior motives by the powers that be. To come nearer home, we have some parts of our society still rooted in African Traditional Religion and being misled by so called traditional healers that if one sleeps with a minor one would be cured of HIV/AIDS. People who still think there is so much into killing another human being so as to boost the fortunes of his or her business. We live in these societies as Catholic Lay professionals and it is to these societies that you are being sent, to conscientize humanity about the loving kindness of God; to form, inform and transform such societies for the better. The world still needs to be delivered from such bondages. Satanism in some parts of the world is fast becoming a golden calf to which people now pay homage without fear. Humanity has lost faith in God and is after quick and ungodly solutions to its problems thereby fulfilling Oscar Wilde’s assertion that we are living in a “laisser faire” society; “Tempted to riches, get them by hook or by crook; tempted to honor buy and forge degrees; tempted to sex buy it at the fresh market no matter whose daughter or wife she is”. This is a permissive society where humanity takes joy and pride in crushing and silencing its conscience in the face of evil.
Worse still in this animated age of scientific progress; one cannot help but see the moral and spiritual rottenness that has become a characteristic of today’s society. The human race has turned into an ‘animal farm’ of some sort; “a man-eat-man society, a Leviathan with the teeth of steel and grasping hands”. Consumerism, hedonism, egoism, greedy, gluttony, maximization of profits, dishonesty, terrorism, corruption, promiscuity, clamor for the legalization of abortion i.e. a culture of death, same sex marriage, unnatural ways of conception and giving birth, exploitation of human dignity especially women through obscene and pornographic material on market. All these and others have become weapons of mass destruction to which we pay homage, and humanity has been worshipping these vices for far too long on the altars of impunity. But who would cheer up at the atrocities in Kenya where hundreds died at the hands of terrorists in a shopping mall? Who would call for a banquet on the 11th of September to celebrate the bombing of the twin towers in the United States of America?
Who would celebrate the war in Rwanda which culminated into a tribal vendetta between the Tutsis and Hutus not so long ago? To move out of this moral and spiritual decadency, the challenge lies with us as Catholic Lay Professionals. You are being called to renew the face of the world, to be the salt of the earth and light of the world. Be visible and ready to be identified. Identify yourselves with positions of influence and God will maximize on your potentials.
By Fr. Magutu