Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Great confidence in God and an acute awareness of human misery and insufficiency dominate the Liturgy of today’s Mass. These two Christian dispositions are closely connected, for it is the consciousness of our nothingness which leads us to put all our confidence in God, and the greater this confidence becomes in us, the more we are convinced of our nothingness.
The Mass begins with a cry of unshakable hope: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? (Ps. 26.1 – DRV, from the Introit). The Lord is truly, really, and substantially present with us in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar, the Lord comes to us in Holy Communion. What can make us fear?
Yet we know our weakness; we have ever before our eyes the remembrance of our sins, failures, infidelities, and ingratitude. How great then is our need to humbly repeat the prayer of the Gradual: Save us, O Lord, and pardon our sins… Help us, O God, our Savior, for the glory of Your Name (Ps. 78.9). Yes, in spite of the continual help of divine grace, in spite of so many confessions and communions, we have to acknowledge new failures everyday; daily, we must begin anew: For which cause, we faint not; but thought our outward man is corrupted, yet the inward man is renewed day by day (2 Cor. 4.16). However, the struggle is painful and arduous. Today’s Epistle therefore reminds us that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us. This thought is one of consolation, hope and confidence; it does not, however, prevent us from longing for freedom and complete redemption. This is what the Apostle St. Paul experienced when he said: We also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body in Christ Jesus. The more we suffer because of our wretchedness, the more we should run to Our Savior Jesus Christ living in our midst on the high altar, with full confidence in the power of His redemption.
Today’s Gospel (Lk. 5.1-11) is a practical demonstration of the words of Our Savior: Without Me, you can do nothing. Simon and his companions had been fishing all night and had caught nothing; that is all they had been able to do by themselves. If we have some little experience in the Spiritual Life, we will recognize that this is often our situation too. How many efforts we have made to rid ourselves of this or that attachment, to forget injuries, to adapt ourselves to our neighbor’s way of doing things and even to subject our will to another’s – even the other is more imperfect than we are [as long as they are not contrary to the teachings, Commandments and laws of God and His Church]! And yet, after all these attempts, we find our hands empty, like Peter’s nets. Let us not be discouraged; if we can humbly acknowledge our failure instead of feeling annoyance because of it, the failure itself will be turned by Our Lord into victory. So it happened to Peter after he had admitted publicly that he had taken nothing. St. Therese of the Infant Jesus and of the Holy Face remarks: “Had the Apostle caught some small fish, perhaps Our Divine Master would not have worked a miracle; but he had caught nothing, and so through the power and goodness of God his nets were soon filled with great fishes. Such is Our Lord’s way. He gives as God, with [what] divine generosity, but He insists on humility of heart.”
In spite of our good will to advance in virtue, Our Lord will not permit us to have any success until He sees that are thoroughly convinced of our own weakness and inability – our nothingness; to give us this conviction, He lets us, as He let Peter, work all night without catching anything. But afterwards, as He sees our growing awareness of our poverty and our willingness to admit it openly, He will come to our aid. We must then have great faith in Him, never allowing ourselves to give up through lack of success. Everyday, on His word, we must begin anew. If we have learned not to trust in our own strength, we must also learn to have complete confidence in the divine aid He gives us, especially coming from the hands of Our Blessed Mother and which the Holy Church dispenses to us through our Traditional Sacraments and sacramentals. If we have caught nothing until now, perhaps it is our lack or even want of humility and of unshakable confidence that is the cause, and this deficiency, besides being displeasing to Our Lord, paralyzes our Spiritual Life.