A businessman in New York City, wanting to avoid a $50 service charge, decided to change a 7 ft. fluorescent light bulb in the office ceiling himself. He brought in a new bulb and successfully installed it, but then had to dispose of the old one. There was a construction site with a large dumpster near the subway exit he’d be using that evening, so when he left work, he took the fluorescent bulb or tube with him and held it upright while standing in the subway car. As the train became crowded, many passengers had to stand, and some of them also took hold of the tube, assuming it was a handrail. When the man reached his stop, he changed his plan: he simply let go of the bulb and got off, leaving it to be held by the other unsuspecting passengers. If that train were to come to a sudden stop, they’d quickly learn the supposed handrail they were using wasn’t at all safe or deserving of their trust (Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book, p. 399).
Not every situation or person is trustworthy. Even when something or someone can be relied on, however, giving our trust isn’t always easy to do—but well-founded trust can lead to amazing results and achievements. One of the events featured in the Winter Olympics now underway is slalom skiing, which is downhill skiing involving zigzags around a series of poles or rods placed upright in the snow. There was once an effort to teach this skill to a very special group of people: blind skiers. Their sighted companions taught them how to pivot and lean either to the right or the left, and when that was mastered, they were taken to the slope, where their partners skied alongside them and shouted either “Left!” or “Right!” Because the blind athletes had absolute trust in their companions and obeyed their directions, they were able to complete the course successfully (Zuck, p. 401). So, it is with us on our journey through life. We cannot know everything that awaits us, nor be prepared for every possible difficulty or hazard we may encounter—but if we give Jesus our absolute trust, He will lead us safely home.
God could give a divine word of command, or in effect snap His fingers, and have everything immediately happen as He desires—including the spread of the Gospel and the triumph of His Son’s Church. However, He prefers to work through His children, calling and empowering them to speak and act on His behalf. We see this when the prophet Isaiah (6:1-2, 3-8) was commissioned to go forth in the Lord’s Name, despite his unworthiness. St. Paul (1 Cor 15: 1-11) speaks of how he, though a sinner and a persecutor of the early Church, was chosen to be an apostle and entrusted with the Good News of salvation. A similar dynamic was at work in the Gospel of Luke (5:1-11). Astonishment at the miraculous catch of fish opened Peter’s eyes to the unique power and authority of Jesus, prompting him to say, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” However, Jesus challenged Peter and his companions to set aside their fear and uncertainty and instead trust in Him—for only in this way would they achieve their mission in life.
After He finished preaching from Peter’s boat, Jesus told him, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” As a professional fisherman, Peter could have been offended, or have said something like, “If it’s all right with You, Lord, we’ll just head back to shore; we’ve wasted enough time already.” However, Peter obeyed, despite any misgivings he might have had, and his trust was rewarded with a miraculous catch of fish. This, of course, got the attention of Peter and his companions, and made them more receptive to Our Lord’s invitation to leave everything behind and follow Him.
Why did Jesus say “Put out into deep water?” Very simply, because that’s where the fish were to be found—not in the shallow water near the shore (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, #48). A related question is this: why does it so often seem our prayers aren’t answered, or at least not in the way or degree we want or expect? There are many possible reasons, but one of them is simply this: because quite often we choose to put limits on what God can do by remaining close to the shore, instead of putting out into the deeper waters where God’s blessings are to be found. For instance, if we’re worried about our finances or material situation, we must ask ourselves: do we trust God enough to tithe, or to give away 10% of our income? Jesus sympathizes with us in our worries and struggles, but then says, “Put out into deep water; tithe to My Church or other groups ministering in My Name, and then trust that I will provide for your needs.” Additionally, if we’re restless or confused or unsatisfied with life, or wondering if God really does have a plan for us, we must ask ourselves: do we spend enough time with the Lord each day, praying or reading Sacred Scripture? Jesus looks upon us with great love, and then says, “Put out into deep water; rearrange your busy schedule to make time for Me each day, and then know that I will help you discover a new purpose and freedom and joy in life.” As a further example, if we’re hurting over a once-cherished relationship that’s become strained because the other person wronged or offended us, we must ask ourselves: have we truly forgiven from the heart? Jesus acknowledges our pain and the other person’s guilt, but then says, “Put out into the deep water; don’t put all the blame on her, don’t wait for him to make the first move—reach out yourself and seek to be reconciled.”
There may be many other ways in which this challenge applies. We usually prefer to play it safe, keeping close to the shore instead of venturing out into deeper water. However, there are times when Jesus calls us to move beyond our comfort zones, trying new things, meeting new people, and getting involved in our parish or community in new ways—all of which can help us grow in our faith, while opening our hearts to a deeper and richer experience of God’s fatherly care. Those who out of fear ask little of the Lord receive little; those who surrender themselves to Jesus in a spirit of trust receive greater and more numerous blessings, even as they find true spiritual freedom and peace by serving others in His Name. Too many people today place their trust in worldly things, like the persons unknowingly holding onto a fluorescent tube in a subway car—and they risk sooner or later having an inconvenient or even nasty surprise. We must instead be like those blind skiers who successfully completed the course because they had learned how to trust. Jesus invites each one of us to “put out into deep water.” During this coming week, let’s think about what this might mean for us, and how we can respond.