5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 10, 2019
Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets for a catch.
The disciples certainly must have been good fishermen, or they could not have earned a living doing it, but have you ever noticed that they never seem to catch any fish in the gospels? Left to themselves, this Sunday, we find the disciples fishing all night without success; then, but at a word from Jesus, everything changes.
Most of us would consider our lives to be most fruitful when we are actively doing something, but what happens when we get sick? When my back went totally out a few years ago, I was forced to spend several “unproductive” and frankly, unhappy days on the couch. All I could do was read and take pain pills. In what way was this fruitful?
Our lives actually bear fruit when what we do (or don’t do) is united with the will of God. Mother (Saint) Teresa of Calcutta again reminds us that what pleases God is not that we have been “successful” in our lives before God, but that we are faithful. When we are detained or delayed by something or someone, for example, or incapacitated by an illness we cannot get away from, our priorities can change radically. At such moments we cannot simply define fruitfulness as something that we do or produce. Rather, we bear fruit every time we learn to accept the will of God, even if we have to struggle for a long time with something that has happened to us. Thankfully, God doesn’t grade us just by the numbers!
Most of us have ordinary lives that alternate between times when things go according to plan and when they don’t; between when we are ill and when we are well; working or resting; busy or bored. But the will of God can be found in all of these things. For example, it was necessary for the disciples to experience a night of “catching nothing”. It must have been a long wait. But they were ready for a miracle when Jesus came along. They were readied precisely by their time of waiting and catching nothing. You might say their later fruitfulness necessitated a period of “catching nothing”.
In order to bear fruit for God, we must allow for “down time”, such as a time of prayer, Mass, and scripture reading. These periods of time, which we may be tempted to think are unproductive, are in fact essential to the success of our lives in Christ. Christ loves us first for who we are, not just what we do. Down times, whether planned or unplanned, are often expressions of the will of God for us. Here, God gets a chance to reorder our priorities, speak to our hearts, teach us through the word, and purify us through suffering. Like the disciples, such “down times” can turn out to be very fruitful indeed!