In the fifth chapter of Luke, we hear the calling of the first disciples—namely Simon Peter, James, and his brother John. These fishermen, as you will recall, had spent the entire night laboring with their nets for a catch of fish, but to no avail. Yet as they are washing their nets after an unsuccessful night on the Sea of Galilee, almost certainly discouraged by their lack of anything to show for their labors, Jesus asks them to put out a little from the shore so that He can preach to the growing crowds from their boat.
What happens next is remarkable. Jesus (the itinerant preacher) turns to Simon (the experienced fisherman) and tells him to “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” I don’t know about you, but I imagine a little reluctance on the part of Simon—maybe an eyeroll or a shaking of the head. But even if reluctantly, Simon heeds the words of Jesus, and incredibly, the nets become so full of fish as to be near the point of breaking.
It’s a reminder that, no matter our expertise, when we heed Jesus’ invitation to put down our nets for a catch, He is the one who guarantees our success. For all of our careful planning and strategizing (even as a parish), Gospel success is actually very simple: it is to hear the invitation of Jesus and to follow it in trust, knowing that He does not fail to bring amazing results if we simply cast our nets.
Our parish, in a few weeks (watch the bulletins for specifics of when/where!), will begin another year of instruction for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, also known as RCIA. This year, our parishes will be collaborating with each other, and Deacon Kevin Richardson has graciously agreed to spearhead our instruction.
What Christ asks of us in these days is to lower our nets for a catch—not for fish, but as Jesus tells Simon will be his occupation henceforth from the moment of his calling, for men and women. Who are the people in your life that you believe might be longing for a relationship with Jesus, who have considered joining the Church but haven’t yet, or who need your accompaniment along the path of discipleship? God has not stopped calling people to join us in our pews, but what we need is a little courage to make the invitation, to let down our nets even when we can’t possibly see it producing a result, and a little trust to know that Jesus will guarantee the success of our efforts.
RCIA, as perhaps you know, is the process for catechumens (i.e. those who have never been baptized into any Christian faith). Certainly, there are times when a baptized Christian might find RCIA helpful in order to be brought into our Catholic faith. But you should also know, as you are making your invitations, that RCIA is not the only process for baptized Christians. In fact, the Church envisions that men and women who are already baptized would be admitted to Confirmation and Communion as soon as they are ready (i.e. after a shorter period of instruction, usually by a priest or deacon). So if you know someone whose excuse all these years was that they “didn’t want to attend the classes,” tell them (in charity) that their excuse is no longer valid. Invite them into the beauty of a living relationship with Jesus and the communion of the Church.
I pray our evangelization efforts would be graced by the Lord, and that the harvest of souls in our parish would be abundant. Pray, brothers and sisters, to hear the invitation of Jesus, to trust in His word, and to lower your nets for a catch. Expect the unexpected!
Keep spreading joy!