Luke 5:1-11 (Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time)
I hope to catch you in a span of 800 words or so.
It is a fond hope I have, a vain hope I sometimes feel. And it depends on the kind of fishnet my words can become, on how far and wide and deep I cast the words, on what I write and set aside. Catching you also depends on where you are now, how you are today, whether you are resting or in a hurry, reading this over breakfast or on your way to some Sunday gathering.
I do not know you. Why would I even want to catch you? You might not even care enough to be caught. I do not even know myself. Since when anyway (I ask myself) have I been caught up in this desire to catch others for Christ?
When I see a rainbow, I see more than just a band of colors in the sky. I see light bending through droplets dancing in the air. I know how difficult it is to make those droplets from vapors in the sky, let alone have light bend through them. I do not see those droplets, but I know they are there. Once as a novice, while watering our plants in the garden, I happened to recreate that bow of colors with a simple spray of water arcing in the sunlight. I remember rushing to tell the kids from Sapang Palay, “Halikayo! Tumingin kayo o.” Rainbows need not remain distant. Look here, a little rainbow over our garden.
How I wish you to see what I see (however dimly). How I wish you to listen to what I have heard (however faintly), to meet who I have met (however inconstantly).
There would be no catching you were it not for this grace of being captivated by the loveliness of the One who has always longed to meet us. In this encounter, we are brought to our senses (if not, to our knees) through an experience of abundance amid what is scarce and limited, through an experience of transcendence that is present to us personally despite our transient and fickle ways.
If you notice, there is only abundance in the readings today. In Isaiah, the Lord is portrayed in all his majesty, with the singing of the seraphim shaking the temple in full sensurround. Paul recounts the multiple appearances of Christ to “more than five hundred” including him, and the consequent abiding of that abundant grace of Christ in our lives through the Gospel witness of those he has sent. In Luke’s story today, when the fishermen move for deep water, there is “astonishment at the catch of fish they had made”.
The immediate reaction to all this abundance is a sense of distance between the infinite and the finite, between God and us. The prophet Isaiah exclaims, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips….” Paul refers to himself as “last of all, as to one abnormally born”. And of course, there is Peter brought to his knees, confessing: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
Heaven’s reaction to this all too human reaction is to hush our fears and self-pity. The Lord’s response to our recoil is not to chide us but to dare us, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” In the boat, Christ pulls Peter up on his feet and sends him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
I know that catching you for Christ will not happen unless we both go for the deep, that is, beyond the borders of our imagined certainties and securities. I may have to convince you that real abundance will not be found by staying close to the shore and wading in shallow water. Even for those who have dared to put out into deep water, committing their lives for good, it is quite possible to come up empty while working all through the night. After all, true abundance happens not mainly by our own efforts, but through the utterly gratuitous presence and action of Christ in our lives.
This piece is a little over 700 words already and I do not know if I am even close to catching you. Words can only do so much. Still, I hope that in reading this, you may make time to let the abundance (that is your life) bring you to your senses. See and strain, if you must, to believe the abundance of what Christ is offering you from arms outstretched and fastened on the cross. In him is our deliverance and meaning, the fullness of God’s love and mercy and redemption.
Catching others for Christ is like being captivated by the loveliness of a rainbow. You do not see the droplets or the light bending through them. But you see the colors and you rush to tell the others, look here, there is fullness of light right over our garden.
This homily first appeared in the column “God’s Word Today” of the Philippine Star.