Sunday, June 26, 2016
Fishing for expectations
Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Fifth Sunday after Trinity
Does the future look bright to you? In many ways, most of us hopefully have a lot to look forward to – birthdays, anniversaries, goals in life. For many others, the future is a frightening place full of uncertainty and difficulty. Many people can become unable to function precisely because they are afraid of how this will affect the future.
The bad news is that there will be pain for all of us. There will be temptation. We will be affected by sin, either our own or someone else’s. There will be loss, decay and breakages which will affect our lives. Worse still, if we actually honour our calling to be Christians, Our Lord warns us that we will face persecution, ridicule, social sanctions and, possibly even death. We cannot afford to forget our brothers and sisters in the Middle East who are suffering like this right this very minute. This could make us afraid to be Christians.
These are hard facts and the Bible doesn’t shy away from them. Look at poor Job who seems to be punished for something he didn’t do. Ecclesiastes reminds us that both Rich and Poor will end up in the grave. For many people, they will say, “well then, what’s the point? Let’s give up on God and just enjoy life.”
There are times when we’re tempted to feel the same.
Simon Peter toils all night with his friends trying to catch some fish. If he doesn’t find any, he will have nothing to sell. If he has nothing to sell, then he will not get any money which he needs in order just to live. In the morning, his nets are empty and the future is not looking too good. Enter the Lord Jesus.
Years later the same St Peter now tells us, “The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” In his time listening to Jesus speaking to him, St Peter has come to realise that seeking that which is truly good is the way forward in life. He has been told, “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”.
This is how we are to live life at each and every moment, seeking the kingdom of God. Whatever is troubling us, whatever we need, whatever is oppressing us, we need only focus our attention on the kingdom of God. Why?
The kingdom of God is our home. It is with us now, with anyone who accepts Our Lord as king of their lives and who thus wants to live out that rule. St Peter says, “Be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.”
He is speaking about the same kingdom of God that he met those years ago. Our Lord Jesus says, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” Through his sleeplessness and worry, St Peter says, “Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net.” In saying “yes” to Jesus, St Peter accepts His rule and is rewarded for his faith. Our Lady says “yes” to the rule of God and is blessed by becoming the Mother of God.
Life may weary us, bother us, frighten us, infuriate us. However, if we can get into the good habit of seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all the things we really need will be added unto us, and we will be happy. When we pray each day, we need to ask God for the grace to seek Him out and find Him.
Then we can expect to find Him. We will be carried through all of our troubles, though we will still feel the pain. However, in God, the pain will end and even become for us a badge of honour, just as the wounds of Our Lord are the means to a greater grace and a greater joy for us.
If we remain faithful to God, our troubles will not be as bad as we think. In fact, the joy will break the nets of our expectations!