“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” The action of today’s Gospel seems to hinge on this statement of Jesus.
Somehow, over the years, the “catch” has become the takeaway, not the quest. And the catch has become very specific, symbolizing the people we evangelize, and the professionals – priests, sisters and religious brothers – who will be doing the catching. Today, in fact, is World Day of Consecrated Life.
But this Gospel can’t be reduced to just a commercial for vocations and converting people to Catholicism. For one thing, people aren’t buying what’s being advertised with vocations or evangelization nearly as much anymore.
Setting out to the deep water is always where the best action is. That process and positioning ought to be our focus, not the outcome. Quality, not quantity.
When we talk about the deep water of our faith, we talk about where we’d naturally not want to go. Just as Simon Peter had initial hesitation about setting out into the deep, the “deep water” is that invitation from Christ to go beyond what we like and what is familiar.
For example, I’m in a contemplative prayer group that meets regularly over ZOOM and is based at Mepkin Abbey, the Trappist monastery in South Carolina where I used to live. This week, we were talking about St. John of the Cross and the purification of memory, of prayer-as-no-experience. Heavy stuff, and the “deep water” of it is detaching our memories from our sense of self, so that we are more open to letting God fill the great caverns of our mind and heart with what God wants to, and not to continue to drive our personal narratives. The “catch” would be a transformed self, but a transformation that we can’t begin to describe while we are still on solid ground.
At a completely different level, we can think of people who throw themselves into the deep water of a faith-based program of charity or justice with brothers and sisters of a completely different culture, maybe even in a different country, where one’s own culture and background are of little use.
We are all going to be thrown into the deep water, and more than once, when we reach a crisis or impasse in our lives – in our health, our relationships, our society, our faith. It’s in our spiritual self-interest to lose our self-interest, to push out into the deep water of Christian prayer and action. And if you want a sample, just come here any evening at 6pm when we pray in silence for twenty-five minutes, when we set out briefly in the deep water of contemplative silence awaiting any catch.