I like fishing! In all the times I have been fishing there have always been rules and guidelines I needed to follow. The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries enforces rules and regulations concerning every aspect of fishing. This includes permits, length of seasons, limits and sizes for all types of fish. I have never been a great fish catcher but I do enjoy fishing. I love being out in nature and away from noise and the distractions of my dumb-down phone and the loud and noisy world.
In all the fishing adventures I have had, I don’t remember ever catching my limit but I do seem to be gifted in attracting really small fish, you know the ones you have to throw back. Some of these little guys have such small mouths I am really shocked they were even able to swallow the hook. And as I release them I usually give the small fish a few encouraging words like: come back when you’re a little bigger, or go tell your big brothers and sisters to come over for a bite! But even if the fish is too small, I really enjoyed the excitement of catching it. I’ll keep on trying to catch that “keeper”!
In the Gospel reading today, the professional fisherman had an awful day fishing. Now this is the way they supported their families, they were really good at their job! The disciples had worked all night and had been unsuccessful. Not only did they not catch any keepers but they did not catch a thing! And then by the grace of our Lord and their obedience, although exhausted, they went right back to work and caught more fish than their nets could hold and just about sank their ships from all the weight of the fish they had caught.
I know as for me, when I am exhausted and have had a bad day a work or fed up with life in general, the last thing I want to do is be obedient to my Orthodox lifestyle. I prefer to selfishly set aside my salvific struggle and neglect church and prayer. I turn my back on my fishing net and leave my boat beached without any attempt to be productive in the waters of life. I disappear into the darkness of doubt and seek comfort from the world of distraction. Poor little ole me!
After all, what benefit do I get from being obedient? St. Nikodemos tells us: “If a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less. Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more firewood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him.” (St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain)
We pray Thy will be done but you see it takes an effort on our parts. We have to be willing to cast our nets back into the stormy waters even when we are tired or when we seem to be losing all our battles in life! We have to be ready to work and our nets must be in good repair, ready and able to love our neighbors. We must shove our tired, worn vessels out into the water trusting in the great commandments that hold our mighty ship afloat! And when Christ returns in the end and the Masters final net is cast, I pray you and I will measure up and be a keeper! Glory To Thee!!!