To how many thousands of words were we exposed this past week? From newspapers, magazines, leaflets, notices, forms, contracts, radio, TV, social media….Weary, we take refuge in our church today and we tell ourselves: “I need a break; I need something much more substantial!”
However, in church, we get more words. Yet we do not mind that, actually we like it: we are greeted by words of a different, supernatural reality: The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Words of glory, of thanks, of prayer.
Then there is the Word: the Word of God. Our natural attraction to it is due to a combination of comfort, enlightenment, inner peace that it has given us in the past. We are here for more. We are here at least to neutralize and to balance the emptiness of so many human words.
For us westerners, words convey ideas. In the Bible words convey energy, power, and the presence of an uncontrollable Force that uttered them. For us words inform; in the Bible they do; they create; they rebuild; they heal; they transform; they raise up people to life anew. In our western world, words also confuse, silence, make vague promises, keep people quiet and orderly, bind or numb, create illusions, make people dream…until, fed up, they turn cynical or stop believing anything.
For the Bible, the power of the Word flows from the Person Who speaks it. And the One Who speaks it, is no other than God Himself, the Almighty. Hence, the Word is a release of divine energy that produces whatever it means, whatever it wills.
Could it be the reason why we are drawn to Mass Sunday after Sunday by the Holy Spirit?
It is the reason why the crowds pressed around Jesus. They could not get enough of him and of his Word. The Word of God, Jesus, is sought after with incredible eagerness because as soon as it is spoken, people are healed, storms are quelled, bread and fish are multiplied, nets are filled with fish, dead are raised to life, sinners are sanctified.
In our passage from the Gospel of Luke (5:1-11), the Word does three awesome things:
- It makes people believe that God, who seemed distant and aloof, has revisited them and filled their hearts with hope and the certainty of His constant, unfailing care.
- It makes people, like Peter and his shipmates, trust in Jesus, even against their best human judgment and expertise.
- It produces “the great reversal:” from catchers of fish, to fishers of people.
Actually, as always, and as we shall see, the Word does even something more astonishing and long-lasting. This is designed by God to happen for us today as well.
If it is not the case, we would be just recalling a nice story from the past with little or no effect in our lives. And God’s Word would be stunted in its intended, divine outcome. Even these beautiful words of Jesus would have little effect in our lives if Jesus were not ready to unleash his Word to perform a miracle just for us as individuals and/or as a Community of faith.
What miracle? Well, the miracle that we have been seeking; or the miracle we are afraid that he might actually perform for us. The miraculous catch was meant for Peter and his companions, but also for the crowds that were watching from the shores.
For Peter and his shipmates it is obvious. The cleaning and mending of the nets had given them time to think about their failure. As they cleaned them and mended them, that failure loomed bigger and bigger. No fish, no profit, hence no way of feeding their family.
There was also loss of confidence in their skill…they had to clean those nets even if they had remained empty all night long…Some people a few feet away, on the shore, were mocking them for sure.
We do not know how Jesus’ Word reached Peter’s heart, but we know the result. Instead of going home to sleep a few hours and dream of the fish that got away, Peter was willing to give it another try. He was ready to put aside his knowledge of how to fish and listen to the word of a carpenter who knew how to pound nails and saw boards but knew nothing about fishing…”On your word I will cast the nets again, during the day, just like a fool, let people laugh and jeer, let me be ridiculed and face another failure….On your word I’ll cast them again and again.”
The miracle of God’s Word was not so much in the catch done in broad daylight, but in the fact that an accomplished fisherman believed One who had no experience about fishing at all. The miracle was made visible in the amount of fish that almost sank two boats, so that also the crowds, by the shore, could realize the power of the words they had heard before.
In Peter’s life that miracle continued until the day of his death. Jesus’ words enlightened the rest of Peter’s life, provided guidance and comfort; a sense of direction; the ability to separate what is proposed by God from what is generated by the foolishness of the world. Gradually, one day at the time, and even amid failures and setbacks, Jesus’ words enabled Peter to see reality through the prism of the Gospel and keep before his eyes the hidden Reality ushered in by the Resurrection. All the miracles that Peter desired and needed from that first miracle onwards happened because of Jesus’ words that never left Peter’s mind and heart.
As we dare to think about the miracle (or miracles) that we desire and need in our life, we want to gain momentum and increase our hope that the Lord will grant whatever part of his will we desire and dare to hope for. We must remember that Jesus tests our trust in his words by asking us to put out into the deep. It must have been frightening for Peter to put out into the deep after a huge failure, but he did so and the miracle was much larger than he had dared to imagine.
Peter was sustained by Jesus’ words even when he found himself in the deepest waters of having denied his Lord three times. Rather than despairing he found comfort in Jesus words of forgiveness, wept bitterly and went on to lead a very fruitful, holy life. May God’s words perform miracles of all sizes for us, too, and sustain us whenever we find ourselves in the deep waters of miseries and sins
REVEREND DINO VANIN, PIME was born in Cendon di Silea, Province of Treviso, Italy in 1946. He entered the PIME Seminary at Treviso at the tender age of eleven. He came to the U.S. in 1968, studying Theology at Darlington Major Seminary in New Jersey. He has an MA in Secondary School Administration from Seton Hall University. Ordained in 1972, he served as an administrator, teacher, rector and principal at the PIME High School Seminary in Newark, Ohio before being sent to the missions of Thailand, where he served for six years. He is currently the Treasurer of the U.S. Region of PIME in Detroit. On December 16, 2018 he was installed as Pastor of San Francesco Catholic Church in Clinton Township, MI. Every week he takes some time off from his parish ministry to do some administrative work at PIME headquarters in Detroit. Due to his increased workload at the parish while continuing as Treasurer of the U. S. Region of PIME and as counselor and spiritual director, he spends any time left doing a little woodworking.