The Gospel readings for the Saturday and Sunday immediately prior to the beginning of Lent 2013 speak deeply of two themes that can sustain us as believers during Lent and the transition of leadership in the Roman Catholic Church that will result from the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Theme one is the importance of taking time to rest and be with the Lord in prayer. Theme two is the call to go with the Lord into “deep water” to find an abundant catch.
In Saturday’s reading from the sixth chapter of Mark, Jesus tells his disciples, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” (Mk 6:30) They all get into a boat and head off across the water. The people see where they are going and follow along by land. By the time Jesus and the disciples arrive at the “deserted place” they find it full of people. Jesus takes pity on them and begins to teach and heal. It was a very short time that he and the disciples had to rest and recharge their energies, yet with God’s help it was enough.
Sunday’s Gospel reading (Lk 5:1-11) presents the story of Jesus’ call of Peter and his brother. Jesus came to the seashore. People were crowding closely about him, so he asked Peter to pull his boat out a bit from the shore and sat there to teach them. When he’d finished, he told Peter to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Peter and his crew had been working all night and caught nothing. He informed Jesus of this fact, but agreed to do what had been requested. When they lowered the nets, the nets were filled with fish to the point of breaking. They had to call another boat to help bring in all the fish and get safely back to shore. When Peter asked Jesus to leave him because he was not worthy to be with such a powerful person, Jesus instead called Peter to follow him and become a “fisher of men.”
Time out to rest and pray
As a people, we have dealt with some difficult issues in recent years, in our Church and in our local communities. Taking time to rest and pray a bit seems a good place to start the next chapter of our story. Many of the world’s people have experienced more difficult economic times than normal. Far too many live lives of dire poverty despite working long hours. The poor, the elderly, the children, the ill, and so many others struggle simply to survive. Yet despite the great needs of the world around us, we are called to take time to find deserted places where we can be alone with the Lord. Only with the Lord can we hope to reach out consistently with compassion to serve those most in need of help. Only with the Lord can we hope to find wise solutions to the economic and environmental challenges we face. Only with the Lord can we strengthen our families in the many forms they take and support each other in our commitments of fidelity, mutual love, and support for a lifetime together. Only with the Lord can we choose life consistently from womb to tomb: safeguarding the lives of women, children, the elderly, the ill, the imprisoned, the immigrant, and all others who are most vulnerable.
Deep waters and transitions
And what of that “deep water?” Deep waters are places of danger. Storms develop quickly. Waves can overwhelm a small boat easily. Psychologists note that deep water in dreams stands for the depths of our unconscious mind — places where we deal with difficult issues and create a new synthesis and basis for our daily activities and beliefs. The expression, “He’s gotten himself into deep water,” is used to describe a situation in which there is some real risk of failure, regardless of how sincerely or with what good will the person embarked on a course of action.
Times of transition are always times of being in “deep water” in one way or another. Certainties of the past may no longer hold. Future patterns and realities cannot be described with any assurance. Old ways pass away. New ways are not yet here. We are in a liminal or threshold state: neither here nor there, waiting to see what will unfold and what new wisdom will be gained as we move into the next phase of our lives. The truly great news is that the Lord is here with us in our little boats out in deep water. Because the Lord is here with us, an abundant catch awaits our labors. As we trust his word and move ahead, the Lord calls each of us with Peter and his brothers, to become fishers of men, following faithfully and moving beyond the life we know and with which we are comfortable into the unknown future of service in God’s Kingdom.
As we move forward towards Holy Week, the celebration of the Triduum, and Easter, may we remember to take time to be alone with the Lord and then move with him back into our worlds to care for God’s people with His compassion.
Let this be our prayer:
Come Holy Spirit. Rekindle the fire of love within each of us and our Church. Guide those who will elect the next Bishop of Rome to carry out the mission of St. Peter as leader of the community. Gift them with wisdom and understanding as they evaluate potential leaders, as well as the courage to trust that the Lord will always be with the Church as we move into the future with all its challenges and joys. Help us to be people of prayer and reflection, as well as people willing to move out of our comfort zones into the deep waters of faithfulness in discipleship, knowing that with the Lord’s help, regardless of who is chosen to be the next Holy Father, all will be well in the end.
Happy, Joyful, and Peaceful Lent!
Public domain image: Transportation boat on water by John Cossick