5th Sunday of the Year Isaiah 6:1–2, 3–8; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11; Luke 5:1–11
Recast the net Perseverance and Jesus’ help are an unbeatable combination.
Years ago a mother in Nashville, Tennessee, gave birth prematurely to a tiny baby girl. Shortly afterward, the baby caught pneumonia. Next, the baby caught scarlet fever. Finally, she contracted polio. The last illness left her one leg badly crippled and her foot twisted inward.
When the little girl reached the age of five, she hobbled about on metal braces while the other kids ran and skipped rope.
When she reached eleven, the handicapped girl asked her little sister to stand watch at the door while she practiced walking without the braces. She didn’t want her parents to catch her walking around without the braces on.
For a whole year the girl continued her secret walks. Then one day she began to feel guilty about them. So she told her doctor what she had been doing. He was flabbergasted. He agreed to let her continue, but only for short periods of time.
Well, the girl’s idea of a short period was far different from the doctor’s idea. And to her periods of walking without braces the handicapped girl added periods of prayer. To make a long story short, that girl eventually threw away her braces for good.
That story fits in beautifully with today’s gospel. It illustrates a point that we need to hear again and again in life. It illustrates a point that we must see dramatized over and over in life. It illustrates the point that perseverance is one of the greatest powers in the world.
Peter and his friends had fished all night without success. Had it not been for Jesus’ words to them, that’s the way their effort for that day would have ended. But Jesus persuaded them to try one more time. They did, and we know what happened. That try made the difference between success and failure.
The story of Peter and his friends illustrates a further point. It is this: Jesus became involved in the process, and that’s when things changed.
The previous castings of the net perhaps 20 or 30 in the course of the night were done on their own. But in the final casting, Jesus became involved. And that’s when things took a 180-degree turn. That’s when things exceeded their wildest dream.
Keeping that in mind, let’s return to the story of the girl in Nashville. Whatever happened to her?
The same thing happened to her that happened to Peter and his friends. Something happened that exceeded her wildest dream.
The girl began not only to walk without braces but even to run. And she ran and ran and ran. At the age of sixteen, this incredible girl qualified for the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and went on to win a bronze medal in the women’s 400-meter relay.
And four years after that, in the 1960 Olympics at Rome, Year C Lectionary 75 4 Ordinary
she became the first woman in history to win three gold medals in track and field. That girl was none other than Wilma Rudolph.
Wilma came home to a ticker-tape parade and a private audience with President Kennedy. She was given the Sullivan Award, naming her the nation’s top amateur athlete.
Wilma Rudolph is a living example of the power of perseverance. She is a tribute to the power and potential of the human spirit. Her life dramatizes that no handicap no matter how great is a match for perseverance and prayer.
Put those two things together and, if it be God’s will, the result can exceed our wildest dream, just as it also did for Peter and his friends.
Ray Kroc, the genius and driving force behind the McDonald fast-food empire, put perseverance, or persistence, near the top of the ladder of human powers. He wrote:
“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent.’’
Add to persistence and determination the power of prayer, and you have a combination that is unbeatable.
Today’s gospel invites us to do two things. First, it invites us to do what Peter and his friends did. It invites us to persevere in our efforts in life.
After recasting the net 20 or 30 times, Peter could have given up on catching anything. But he didn’t give up. He recast the net one final time, and that spelled the difference between success and failure.
Second, today’s gospel invites us to involve Jesus in our efforts in life. It was when Jesus entered the picture that Peter and his friends succeeded.
They not only succeeded. They exceeded their wildest dream.
It was the same with Wilma Rudolph. It can also be the same for each of us here.
Let’s close with a prayer that was composed by someone who was a model of perseverance and prayer, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Please pray along with me, in silence, his familiar “Prayer for Generosity’’:
“Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve;to give and not to count the cost;to fight and not to heed the wounds;to toil and not to seek for rest;to labor and not to ask for reward,except to know that I am doing your will.’’
Series II 5th Sunday of the Year Isaiah 6:1–2, 3–8; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11; Luke 5:1–11
The gardenia Without God’s help, our human efforts will always fall short.
Dorothy Mefford tells this story. One day she bought a potted gardenia and put it in her living room. She fertilized it and watered it faithfully.
The leaves turned a rich green and the plant began to bud. But for some reason the buds died one after the other.
For six weeks Dorothy tended the plant, hoping that at least one bud would make it and burst into bloom. But none did.
Discouraged, she put the gardenia outside. As she did, she regretted wasting so much time and money on it.
In the days ahead, Dorothy ran into a series of problems: a serious illness in the family, a financial problem, and a misunderstanding with a friend.
The more she struggled with these problems, the worse they got. Nothing seemed to go right for her anymore. She began to indulge in self-pity.
Then one day, when her depression hit an all-time low, she got together a basket of dirty clothes and decided to go to the laundry. At least she could wash clothes.
As she shut the door and descended the steps, she noticed a lovely fragrance filling the air. It was so lovely that she looked around to see where it was coming from. What she saw amazed her.
The gardenia that she had given up on and had put outside had just produced a magnificent white flower. It was as large as it was fragrant.
All the fertilizing, watering, and care that she had given the plant in the house was not enough to make it bloom. What it needed was to be exposed to the fullness of the sun.
She stopped and thought for a minute. Then it hit her.
What was true of her gardenia was also true of her life. All her efforts to deal with her problems had not produced a solution. Those efforts on her part had been necessary, but they were not enough.
Like the gardenia, something was missing. Something more was needed. She needed God, just as the gardenia needed the sun.
Dorothy Mefford’s story of her gardenia and herself bears a striking resemblance to the story of Peter in today’s gospel.
Peter and his companions had labored all night and had caught nothing. All their work had been useless. They had done everything they could, but it was not enough. Something was missing.
Then Jesus entered the picture, and everything changed. Like the gardenia discovering the sun, and like Dorothy discovering God, Peter and his companions discovered the answer to their problems.
They had been missing the most important ingredient of all. They had been missing the help and the power of God. They had been missing the help and the power of Jesus.
Consider another story. It is told by Olive Bradshaw. She had a friend whose wife had died suddenly and tragically. Her friend nearly went out of his mind with grief and anguish.
Instead of time healing the wound, time only made it worse. Finally, the doctors suggested that the man take a trip abroad.
But travel was not the answer. One day, while in Italy, he climbed up a cliff with one thing on his mind: suicide.
As he stood on the edge of the cliff, ready to leap to his death, he suddenly heard music. It was so pure that it startled him. He looked around to see where it was coming from. What he saw amazed him.
There at the entrance to a cave appeared a barefoot boy playing a harmonica.The sound of the harmonica and the sight of the boy penetrated the depths of his grieving heart.
Suddenly he realized how much loveliness and beauty were still left in the world. He realized how selfish and self-pitying he had been.
He said later that the barefoot boy playing the harmonica was a gift from God. It was much more. It was the very presence and power of God entering his life to help him, at a time when he could no longer help himself.
The story of Dorothy, the story of Peter, and the story of the grieving man these three stories all contain the same important lesson.
We all need God in our lives. All our human efforts to cope with our problems are necessary. But they are not enough. We need something more. We need the help and power of God for this.
The practical application of all this to our life is as clear as it is important.
If we are experiencing problems and are making no headway in dealing with them, perhaps the reason is the same one that plagued the woman, Peter, and the grieving man.
We have been trying to do everything ourselves. We have forgotten that our human efforts alone are not enough. We have forgotten that we need God’s help as well.
The answer to our problem is the same answer that Dorothy, Peter, and the grieving man discovered. The answer to our problem is to involve God in our lives.
When we do that, our lives will turn around 180 degrees, just as did the lives of Dorothy, Peter, and the grieving man. We will discover what Peter did. We will discover that God wishes not only to bless us, but to bless us beyond our dreams.
God wishes to give to our lives a power and a fullness that exceeds anything we can imagine.
All we have to do is to open our hearts to God’s love, to listen for God’s music, and to lower our nets.
God will do the rest. Series III 5th Sunday of the Year Isaiah 6:1–2a, 3–8; 1 Corinthians 15:1–11; Luke 5:1–11
Missing ingredient Without God’s help, our human efforts always fall short.
Jesus] said to Simon, . . .“[L]et down your nets for a catch.” “Master,” Simon answered, “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing.But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” They . . . caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. Luke 5:4–6
Some years back, Professor Richard Brown was teaching a college course entitled “Filmmakers on Filmmaking.”
One of the sessions was devoted to showing and analyzing a popular film called Resurrection. It starred Ellen Burstyn. She happened to be in town and agreed to come to the session and take part in the discussion.
The film dealt with the topic of faith healing. Ellen Burstyn played the part of a paralyzed woman who undergoes a dramatic healing. The first sign that she is being healed takes place when her toe wiggles after a fly lands on it. One of the first questions the students asked was how they managed to get the fly to perform on cue. Was it a stunt fly? If so, how did they train it?
Burstyn explained that ten flies were put in a semifrozen state. The idea was to place one of these flies on her toe, anticipating that the heat from the camera lights would revive it. At that point Ellen would wiggle her toe and the fly would fly away.
The first fly simply fell to the floor. It was dead. The second fly did the same thing, as did seven successive flies.
The dramatic moment of the film was in danger of being scrubbed. They had tried nine flies and not a single one responded according to plan.
While everyone was preparing to give up, Ellen got an idea. In the spirit of the faith-healing theme of the film, she decided to pray to Jesus for help. “Lord,” she prayed, “we’ve tried nine times without success. Please help us with this last shot.”
The result? The tenth fly gave an Oscar-winning performance.
Ellen Burstyn’s story of the fly bears a resemblance to the story of Peter and his companions in today’s Gospel.
They had labored all night without a shred of success. They had caught nothing. Their human skill and effort were useless. Some ingredient was missing. Then Jesus entered the picture.
[H]e said to Simon, . . . “[L]et down your nets for a catch.” “Master,” Simon answered,“we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. Luke 5:4–6
That brings us back to Ellen Burstyn’s story of the fly. The director of the film and his crew were also ready to give up. All their professional skill and effort were proving useless. Some ingredient was missing.
That’s when Ellen Burstyn got the idea, in the spirit of the theme of the film, to turn to prayer.
And that’s when the director and his crew discovered what was missing: the most important ingredient of all. They were missing the help of God. They had been missing the help of Jesus, who promised, “Ask, and you will receive.” Luke 11:9 Apriest who does a lot of writing in connection with his ministry (the author) is frequently asked if he ever gets “writer’s block.”
In other words, does he ever sit down to write and nothing happens? For example, does he ever rack his brain for a story to illustrate a key point and come up with a complete blank?
Or, like the film director and his film crew, does he ever think he has a solution to a problem, but when he tries to put it down on paper, he discovers that it doesn’t hang together that some ingredient is missing? The answer is yes. It happens many times. But then it suddenly dawns on him that he is missing the most important ingredient of all. He is missing the help of God He is missing the help of Jesus. At this point, he stops and does what Ellen Burstyn did. He turns to prayer. And more often than not, this puts him back on track again.
He confesses that this solves the problem so frequently that, at times, it gets a bit “scary.”
That brings us to the practical application of all this to our own lives.
If we are experiencing a problem and are making no headway in solving it, maybe it’s for the same reason the director and his film crew and Simon Peter and his fishing crew couldn’t make headway either.
We are missing the most important ingredient of all. We are missing the help of Jesus, who promised, “Ask, and you will receive.” Luke 11:9
In other words, we are trying to do everything ourselves. We have forgotten that human skill and effort alone are not enough to solve some problems. We have forgotten that some problems need God’s special help.
The answer to these kinds of problems is the same answer that solved the problems for the director and his film crew and Peter and his companions. We need the most important help of all the help of God.
When we involve God in our lives, we will discover what they did. We will discover that God often wishes to bless us not only with his help but in a way that exceeds our dreams.
God wishes to give to our lives a power and fullness that is beyond what we can imagine.
All we have to do is open our hearts to God’s power, listen to God’s music, and “lower the nets.”
God will do the rest in his own way and in his own time.