Never the same again

GOD'S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. -

Jesus Enters Our Boat. Pressed by the crowds, Jesus enters the boat of Peter, dejected after having caught nothing all nightlong. Without Peter’s permission, Jesus enters his boat. 

Similarly, many of us recall how the Lord, at a certain point, entered and intervened in our lives in an unprecedented manner. A few years ago I met a Filipina in her 50s who survived the terrorist attack on the World Trade Towers. In total darkness, engulfed by smoke and flames, amidst crashing beams and collapsing floors, she groped her way down 60 flights of stairs. She found her way into the light and her life was never the same again.

Jesus Performs Wonders. Learning that they had caught nothing, Jesus invites Peter to cast the net on the other side of the boat. They make such a large catch that the net is about to break. When the Lord takes charge of our boat, He astounds us with wonders beyond our imagination, reversing our emptiness into abundance, transforming our desolation into delight.

I have witnessed the miracle of the net innumerable times while performing with the Bukas Palad Music Ministry. Even though we may have been going through rough times or spiritual dryness individually or as a choir, the Lord always fills our net. After every performance, people thank us for having made God’s presence real and palpable through our songs and prayers. Indeed, the Lord always fills our nets. 

Jesus Invites Us. In the midst of the sacred, we become acutely aware of our unworthiness. Having witnessed the miracle of the net, Peter, knowing he is in the presence of the divine, falls on his knees and cries out, “Stay away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus does not gloss over Peter’s weaknesses, but instead sees his virtues and potential for greatness which far outweigh his character flaws. “Come and follow me,” Jesus bids. The Almighty God never imposes His will upon us. Humbly, the Lord awaits our free response.

Tita Cory never aspired to become president. Forced by circumstances — a fractured opposition and a people desperate for freedom — she goes on retreat in the Pink Sisters and, like Jacob, wrestles with God. The next morning, after freely surrendering her life and her fate to God, she emerges with a deep interior peace. She knows what she has to do. Freely, she accepts the Lord’s invitation to carry the people’s hopes on her shoulders. Immediately after, she files her candidacy for presidency. After her encounter with the Lord in that retreat, Tita Cory is never the same again.

Jesus Redirects Our Course. Upon Jesus’ invitation, Peter follows him. But it entails leaving behind family, boat, net, and village. For three years he sojourns with Jesus from village to village, witnessing Jesus preach and heal, feed the multitude, still wind and waves, and raise the dead. 

Upon Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Peter expects him to be proclaimed the new messiah or king. But they are overtaken by the quick turn of events. In less than a week, the expected messiah lies dead in a tomb. Broken and fearful, Peter hides, perhaps questioning God for entering his boat and changing the course of his previous quiet, simple life. Forlorn and confused, Peter and six other disciples go back to their former lives. They go fishing.

Then a man on the shore cries out, “Have you caught anything to eat. Cast your net on the other side.” Upon witnessing once more the miracle of the net, the beloved disciple cries out, “It is the Lord.” After breaking bread, Jesus for a second time invites Peter to follow him. And for a second time, Peter leaves behind boat and net in order to follow the Risen Lord.

When we allow Jesus into our boat, He leads us where we do not intend or plan to go. We may complain, “Lord, what have you gotten me into? My life was simpler before You entered my life and commissioned me to serve others.” After a period of destabilization, we begin to see out net fill with the blessings of a life dedicated to the Lord’s service. And like Peter, we fall on knees, overwhelmed by the wonders God has worked out through us, and even, despite us.

 Last Tuesday I had the opportunity to conduct a recollection for the international missionaries of the Couples for Christ who were home for a vacation and for recharging. They each narrated that, at some point in the lives, the Lord entered their boat and redirected their lives. Having fallen in love with the Lord, like Peter who left boat and net, they gave-up their corporate jobs and followed Jesus who led them to foreign shores — East Timor, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kenya. Weary from mission work, they radiated the peace and joy of those who allowed Jesus to redirect their lives, and whose lives, because of Jesus’ stewardship, were never the same again.

Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ is a prolific composer of liturgical music and serves on the faculty of theLoyolaSchoolof Theology. For feedback on this column, email tinigloyola@yahoo.com.


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