Today was one of those days when I sat in Mass listening to my pastor proclaim and preach upon the gospel message from Luke 5:1-11 with tears streaming down my face and a recent memory in my heart.
The cause for my emotions? A dual, visceral reaction to both my pastor’s eloquent homily and my very recent memory of standing in the very scene of today’s gospel: the Lake of Gennesaret. Before my trip to Israel last January, my knowledge of that region was incredibly limited, and I’d never really heard the “Sea of Galilee” called by it’s alternative name. In my Southern California-raised mind, “sea” equals “ocean”, and “ocean” equals “surfing”.
So for the first 48 years of my life, I always mentally pictured Jesus’ happenings in and around Galilee as though they’d happened in the waves of Huntington Beach or Newport — a far cry from the serene, lake-like environment I experienced the day we went out cruising on the Lake of Gennesaret.
Something else I encountered that day was a firsthand, up-close look at the “Jesus Boat“, a recent first century nautical discovery unearthed from that very region, and more than likely representative of the boat in today’s passage from Luke. A newly released film on the boat and its place in time is on its way to me for review — I’ll be sharing that soon. For today, I want to share with you a few of the thoughts my pastor, Msgr. Rob Wenzinger, preached on at Mass this morning. I tease Msgr. Rob regularly about being his biggest fan… he never ceases to draw beautiful, relevant meaning from scripture.
Today, he shared with us that this particular passage is one of his personal favorites, and that he finds its placement as our last Sunday gospel prior to Lent to be particularly relevant. In the gospel, we find Jesus intentionally approaching a group of fishermen and asking them to put out into the lake. After a series of miraculous events on the lake, we find Simon Peter, James and John intentionally leaving their homes and livelihoods to follow Jesus. Msgr. Rob likened their bold actions to those of our Candidates and Catechumens in RCIA readying themselves to receive their sacraments of initiation this Easter. For many of them, the decision to follow Christ and his Church separates them from their “comfort zones”, including the fact that a few of them will leave behind family ties with those who don’t understand or blatantly disagree with their faith decisions.
Monsignor reminded those of us in the pews that we too are called to this total conversion, to a leaving of our security and the things we hold most dear to follow Christ completely. Today, I sat asking myself, “Is that me? Am I ready to leave everything to follow him? Or do I simply take along my baggage and enjoy the parts of the journey that fit my desires and preferences? Is my heart passionate for and fully devoted to the catching of souls for the Lord?”
I know the answers to those queries in my heart, and they fuel me for the spiritual evolution that needs to be accomplished in the Lenten season ahead. I’d like to get a lot closer to answering those questions as the disciples did.
I have a lot of work to do to get there…