By Father Casey
In the gospel for this weekend (Luke 5:1-11), we hear about the day Jesus encounters a group of fishermen – his future disciples – along the shores of the Sea of Galilee. They have spent the entire night hard at work, rowing up and down the coast, casting their nets over and over, using all their knowledge and experience in search of a good catch. But now, as the sun comes up, their nets are empty. They’ve caught nothing. By the time Jesus meets them, they are disappointed, discouraged, and exhausted.
At this point in the pandemic, we can sympathize. For nearly two years, we’ve been toiling away, using our best efforts to deal with each new challenge and setback. We’ve been busy to the point of exhaustion, but when we sit down to look at what we’ve accomplished, our nets can seem empty. It’s true at church: as hard as we’ve been trying the last two years, attendance and giving remain below pre-pandemic numbers. It’s true in our schools: teachers and administrators have been working harder than ever, but are dealing with overwhelming fatigue and deepening despair. And it’s true in our wider society: we’ve labored to endure wave after wave of crises, but so many major problems remain unaddressed.
Which is why we should pay attention to what Jesus invites those fishermen to do.
After listening to them describe their discouragement and fatigue, Jesus instructs them to do something surprising. He tells them to push out beyond the shallows and into the deeper waters. Peter understandably protests: “Why we would venture into the deep areas of the lake when the shallower waters have yielded no fish? This makes no sense.”
But Jesus isn’t teaching a new fishing technique; he is giving us an important lesson about life. When all our straining and striving leaves us feeling empty and disappointed, it’s time to push out into deeper waters: to ask deeper questions, pursue deeper truths, and deploy deeper practices. Not to add more “to dos” to our overwhelmed lives, but in order to reorient our lives around things with the deepest meaning and significance. This is the wisdom of the swimming pool: all the noise and splashing comes from the shallow end, but look over at the deep end, and what you typically see are people gliding atop the water with purpose and strength.
So if your nets feel empty friends, consider Jesus’ invitation. How can you move away from the shore and into the deeper waters of prayer, discipline, and inspiration? How can you leave behind the noise and splashing of the shallows and swim in the tranquility of the deep end? Because it’s when we push out into the deep that we will be renewed to keep casting our nets, only then, it won’t be the fleeting satisfaction of fish we’re after, but the greater joy and purpose of God’s Kingdom.