Sunday, 4 February 2007

Duc in altum!

Put out into the deep! That was the call of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II at the beginning of his great Apostolic Letter for the beginning of the New Milennium, Novo Milennio Ineunte. I was reminded to think about this again with the Gospel today, where Jesus invites Simon and the others to "Put out into deep water". Sometimes we really need to be awoken from the complacency of our lives or, in the language of so many today, challenged to leave our comfort zone. God's plan is not for us to become stale but to be dynamic, just as his love is dynamic. It means that we should not get into a rut, but be open to change. In the three readings at today's Mass, we see three characters going through change: Isaiah, St Paul and St Peter. In each case they become aware of the glory of God (Isaiah has a vision of God's glory in the Temple, Paul was blinded by the light from heaven, Peter sees the great haul of fish and hears the gracious words of Jesus. This arouses in each of them a feeling of unworthiness and an awareness of sin ("What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips" - "I hardly deserve the name apostle" - "Leave me Lord: I am a sinful man"). The Lord then brings the grace of cleansing and forgiveness ("See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away..." - "by God's grace that is what I am" - "Do not be afraid"). This is then followed by a commission which each of them accepts, to be a prophet, an apostle, a fisher of men.

If we wish to evangelise the first stage is that we need to be evangelised. This means having that vision of the glory of God. He gives this through his word, through his Church, through his presence with us by grace. We need to pray for this vision - not a vision with the eyes but with the heart, that is able to respond by bowing low before the presence of God to us. It is the light of that glory of God which shows up our sin. It should make us feel unworthiness, so that we can then ask for the grace of forgiveness and healing. It is only by being aware of the glory of God, and having true sorrow for our sins that we arrive at knowing God's will for us. That may come quickly - it may take a long time for us to see and understand, but if we truly risk 'putting out into the deep', trusting in Christ but being willing to take risks, then we will be rewarded with the deep joy which comes from knowing we do God's will.

Pope John Paul II wrote this prayer very shortly before he died:
Jesus, Son of God, in whom the fullness of the Divinity dwells, You call all the baptized to "put out into the deep", taking the path that leads to holiness. Waken in the hearts of young people the desire to be witnesses in the world of today to the power of your love. Fill them with your Spirit of fortitude and prudence, so that they may be able to discover the full truth about themselves and their own vocation. Our Saviour, sent by the Father to reveal His merciful love, give to your Church the gift of young people who are ready to put out into the deep, to be the sign among their brothers of Your presence which renews and saves. Holy Virgin, Mother of the Redeemer, sure guide on the way towards God and towards neighbour, You who pondered his word in the depth of your heart, sustain with your motherly intercession our families and our ecclesial communities, so that they may help adolescents and young people to answer generously the call of the Lord. Amen.

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