The Reading from the Second Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. (1:21-2:4) and the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (5:1-11)
When I was a young man in school, I remember one of our teachers telling us something that we thought was strange at the time. She said to us, you shouldn’t be upset when I correct you, you should be really upset when I stop correcting you. As a kid this didn’t make any sense to me, after all, the worst thing in the world is to be corrected, or at least I thought. But it turns out that there is great wisdom in this saying, and in fact it is clearly echoed in today’s second epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians. The holy apostle writes,
“For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.”
St. Paul clearly wrote a letter of correction to some of the members of the Corinthian community. It seems that this letter caused them some pain and consternation. Perhaps some feathers were ruffled and it’s possible that even some feelings were hurt in the process. But St. Paul tells them and us that this is part of what it means to be a father who loves his children. He was ready to seem like the bad guy, if it meant caring for his people with the love of Christ. He says “I wrote as I did, so that when I came I might not suffer pain from those who should have made me rejoice,” What does he speak of here? He is speaking of the pain that he would suffer if his people were not living correctly, in true faith. Since he did not want to suffer such pain, since this would hurt him and it would hurt to see others struggling and falling away from the Lord, and it would also be an indictment on his lack of fatherhood and pastoral care, he corrected them and caused them some pain in the process in order that later his joy would be full since it would be the shared joy ofthe true faith in Our Lord JesusChrist.
He reminds us that any good father sometimes corrects his children, even when they don’t really like it. Sometimes he corrects them more sternly, but always with love and with a keen eye towards their progress and salvation. He wants the best for them. If this is true with the natural father, how much more is it true with spiritual fatherhood? Not only do pastors and priests have an interest in seeing you thrive, not only do we take great joy in watching you grow in the faith, but more than all of that, we are accountable to God who ordained us to this task, and most of the priests that I know do not take this task lightly. The burden is heavy. So if you’re priest happens to correct you out of love, try to accept it as love. As my teacher once said, we should be more concerned if the one responsible for us stops correcting us.
Now focusing on the gospel reading for a few minutes, we see that the Lord Jesus Christ comes to the disciples with a simple command: “put down into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” The problem with this command was that the disciples had fished all night long. They were exhausted, they had just finished wrapping things up, washing their nets, taking care of their equipment and were about ready to head home for some breakfast and time with their families. So what was otherwise a simple command, was for these disciples, a big deal. Often the Lord gives us simple commands but the particular situations and circumstances of our life, can make these simple commands seem particularly burdensome. But guess what? The circumstances don’t matter as much as the obedience to Jesus Christ. We that in this gospel passage, the disciples lead by Simon Peter said “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Thy word I will let down the nets.” This simple act of obedience, obedience against all common sense, led to the greatest catch of fish that the disciples ever took. It is possible that this great catch of fish made it possible for them to leave everything behind and follow the Lord for a time. More importantly, it allowed the disciples to see the fruit of obedience to the Lord and through this they had a newfound faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing is more valuable than that which gives us new appreciation for the Lord and His place in our lives.
While most of us are not fishermen by trade, we can still take many lessons from this gospel reading. One of the most important is to see this story as symbolic of our prayer life. Sometimes we are lazy with our prayers, barely getting through the written text. Other times, we are faithful and diligent.But often we leave our prayers wondering if we have achieved anything. We are not sure what has happened. Yet listen to the words of the Lord “Put out into the deep and let your nets down for a catch.” This can be taken as an invitation to go even deeper, to a place that we do not yet know, to the deepest corners of our hearts. Christians have to pray that way and not superficially. God has billions of people who pray to Him, but only a very precious few who pray deeply from the heart. St. Joseph of Optina once said“Prayer is food for the soul. Do not starve the soul, it is better to let the body go hungry.”
So even after we have prayed, and toiled in a manner of speaking, don’t think that we can just stop there. Sometimes we have to go beyond our expectations and obey the words of the Lord to go deeper and let down the nets of our heart in order to catch a net full of the grace of God. After all, this is what the Lord wants for us. He wants to know us and dwell with us, and this most precious gift requires a great effort on our parts and the acknowledgement that just like Peter, even after we receive it, we are completely unworthy of God’s blessings. May the Lord give us courage to go deeper, into the unknown places of prayer and seek the Lord there, where He can make Himself known to us. Glory be to God forever AMEN.