5 Sun OT Yr C (2016)
Holy Spirit Parish/UK Newman Center
What a difference punctuation makes…
What we say and how we say it can quite literally change everything. There Jesus was, preaching by the water when He saw them. They’d been fishing all night, but caught nothing. These weren’t hobby fishermen, mind you. This wasn’t Bud and Phil out on the lake with a cooler and some night crawlers. These were professional, experienced, been-doing-it-since-they-were-babies fishermen. They knew what they were doing; they’re experienced – and if they’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught anything, that clearly means there are no fish to be caught. Period.
So imagine their surprise when this man who’s been talking to a large crowd over on the shore comes over, steps onto their boat (apparently uninvited) and says, “Let’s go catch some fish – I how where they are – go out the deep part of the lake and drop your nets.”
“Um – excuse me – but aren’t you a carpenter? I’ve been fishing this lake my whole life OK buddy, and if I didn’t catch any fish last night that means there are no fish to be caught. Period.” Or, in other words, “Buzz off now. I got this. I know what I’m doing. I don’t need you to give me any advice or assistance, thank you very much.” Or, in today’s Gospel, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing. Period.” Thanks but no thanks. I don’t need you to tell me anything. Peace out bro.
But – that’s not what Peter said, is it? Peter didn’t say “period” he said “comma” – Peter didn’t limit himself to what he already knew (or thought he knew) – he didn’t get so wrapped up in his own self-certainty, self-righteousness, and self-importance that he closed off learning or experiencing something new when Jesus stepped into his boat. Peter didn’t say “period” – he said “comma” – opening himself to what Jesus might want to say or do.
Think about the difference. On the one hand: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing. Period. End of sentence – end of story.” On the other hand: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing – comma – but at your command I will lower the nets.”
What’s the difference? Humility. Receptivity. Openness to something new. Possibility. The potential for conversion. What a difference punctuation makes!
In your relationship with Christ – in your own discipleship and friendship with Christ – in your participation in the community of the Church and your experience in this parish family – in your hearing and responding to the Gospel and even to the homilies preached at Mass – are you using a period or a comma? When someone says something with which you disagree, do you lock yourself off from any potential for growth, conversion, new healing and transformation by restating your experience and stopping the experience there with a period? “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing. Period. I know the truth. Period. This is how we do things – this is how we’ve always done things – and this is the right way for us to do things. Period”
Or – are we a people, like Saint Peter, who are open to something new in our encounter with Jesus Christ this week, this Lent, this year, with this priest, at this Mass? “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothings, comma, but at your command I will lower the nets. I’m pretty certain that what I believe is true and good and beautiful, comma, but let me listen to what you’re saying again and really consider it, ponder it, open myself to the possibility that maybe I can learn something from it. This is how we do things – this is how we’ve always done things – and this has been the right way for us to do things so far, comma, but we’re always open to something new, and we’re always eager to experience growth, encounter mystery and miracle, and see new beauty and abundance that we’ve not seen before.”
What a difference punctuation makes!
What we’re really talking about here is whether or not we’re open to conversion. When we’re so self-certain that we end the conversation by recapping the experience we’ve already had, what we’re really saying is that there’s no room for conversion. Among the amazing things Pope Francis has said to engage us in this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, he’s reminded us of the importance of conversion – of being a people “in process” and “on a journey” in such a way that we’re always open to a new, deeper, more healing, more fruitful truth.
Are you open to conversion or do you have it all figured out? Are you willing to rethink and encounter something new that might be even more beautiful than what you’ve encountered so far? A period or a comma – which one do you use? Think about the difference punctuation made in Peter’s life:
Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothings, comma, but at your command I will lower the nets. And they caught so much more than they ever dreamed was possible…