SCRIPTURE READINGS: [Col 1:9-14; Ps 98:2-6; Lk 5:1-11 ]
Many of us are like St Peter in the gospel. We too say to the Lord, “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing.” Indeed, this is how many of us feel. Many of us work so hard to get our academic degrees, be successful in our projects and in our career, yet at the end of the day, we find all these to be meaningless. What is the use of working so hard only to come to realize we have toiled in vain? As the book of Ecclesiastes would says, “all is vanity.” Indeed, we thought that when we have everything, that is, power, glory, honour and wealth, we will be happy, but as it turns out, these are all illusions. They did not make us happy or fulfilled in life. No wonder, they are called idols as these are nothingness.
However, some of us are truly working for God and for His people. We too invest much of our time doing the work of God, helping the Church and our community, and being involved in the service of the poor and other social involvements. Moreover, we do all these things over and above our own work and family time. Yet, in spite of so much energy, time and resources invested into it, we experience only opposition, failure, disappointment and frustration.
In such a situation, we are called to turn to the Lord. The cause of our failures and disillusionment in life is because we rely on our own wisdom and on our own strength. St Paul wrote to the Christians, “You will have in you the strength, based on his own glorious power, never to give in, but to bear anything joyfully.” Indeed, we cannot rely on ourselves to achieve the true and lasting goals of life that can bring us true happiness. Without Christ, we are bound to fail, and even when we are successful in worldly terms, the achievements at the end of the day will be meaninglessness.
What, then, does it mean to rely on the glorious power of God?
The precondition for turning to the Lord is the sense of inadequacy and helplessness. So long as we can depend on ourselves, the Lord will not intervene. Only in our desperation will the Lord act in our lives so that we know that He is the Lord. Otherwise, it would not be possible to declare, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout to the Lord, all the earth, ring out your joy.” This was the case of St Peter. Initially, he depended on his skills and past experiences. He was so sure of himself that he was reluctant to put down the nets. As a professional fisherman, the last thing he needed was the advice of a carpenter. But the Lord wanted to surprise him so that he could witness the power and wisdom of God.
Once this condition is met, we need to have faith in Him. This faith is manifested in obedience. Obedience is but the expression of faith. When Jesus told Peter to “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”, in obedience, he did. Faith is therefore the way to draw strength from the Lord. Faith in Christ enables us to do all things. It was Peter’s faith that made him surrender to the Lord’s command. Against all doubt, he told the Lord, “but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.”
Secondly, we need to have love. We can only trust in God’s power provided we have experienced His love. This was the case of St Peter. After the miracle, he was overwhelmed by his sinfulness and God’s mercy. He must have been so embarrassed by the miracle because the Lord exposed his pride, self-confidence in his own skills and lack of faith in God’s power. Yet, in spite of his doubts and reluctance, the Lord showed Him mercy.
Similarly, St Paul told the Christians the same thing. “Because that is what he has done: he has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Son that he loves, and in him, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.” The consciousness of what He has done for us, liberating us from bondage and enlightening us in our blindness itself is a great joy. Only when we come to realize how much God has loved us and shown us His mercy, will we then be able to trust in His love for us.
Thirdly, to rely on God’s glorious power is to have a certain hope of our calling in life. St Paul wrote, “You will have in you the strength, based on his own glorious power, never to give in, but to bear anything joyfully, thanking the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light.” Indeed, when we know our true calling in life, we will realize that it is more than just making a living, increasing our earthly wealth and power, or living for ourselves or even our loved ones. When we come to realize that we are called to live for God and one day to be united with Christ and all the saints, sharing in His eternal light, then this great hope installed for us will give us impetus in our struggles and in the sacrifices we put in. We can give all of ourselves because we know that the hope we have for ourselves and humanity will not be in vain. As the psalmist says, “The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel.”
Consequently, we need to strengthen our faith, hope and love in God if we are to find strength in whatever we do. We need to work for the right motives and for the right goals in life. This calls for prayerful discernment in whatever we do. It is for this reason that we need to pray as St Paul wrote, “Ever since the day we heard about you, we have never failed to pray for you, and what we ask God is that through perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding you should reach the fullest knowledge of his will.”
We need to seek perfect wisdom and understanding of His will for us. Without knowing His will, we will do many things but find no peace and joy. Seeking the will of God is necessary for us to find His will so that we can give our whole heart and soul to whatever He has called us to do. This explains why some are not happy in life because they did not respond to the call of God. They did not follow the vocation that the Lord has given to them. But if we are clear that this is what the Lord is asking of us, and if we give ourselves wholeheartedly to His plan, we will find happiness. Indeed, when St Peter, James and John heard the call of Jesus who said to them, “Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch”, “they left everything and followed him.” This is the second level of obedience. Having responded to the first obedience of faith when the Lord asked him to lower the net, and encountering His overwhelming mercy, St Peter in the second act of obedience was now ready to leave his career, wealth and security to follow Jesus in catching men for the kingdom. Because they allowed the Lord to work in and through them, they became great apostles for Christ.
But where is His will to be found if not in the Word of God? If Peter and his companions could eventually in faith respond to Jesus in paying down the nets and then following Him, it was because they had been listening to Jesus who was preaching. Together with the crowd, they were listening to what the Lord was saying. We too who seek His will and His wisdom must turn to the scriptures. We need to pray and meditate on the scriptures so that the Lord can direct us in our ways. Without a prayerful reading of the Word of God, we would only listen to ourselves. So conviction of our calling and of His will requires us to spend time in prayer and meditation on the scriptures. In the Word of God, we find strength, wisdom, inspiration and light. St Paul wrote to young Bishop Timothy, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16f)
Let us continue to seek the Lord for His guidance and His will. This was what the Lord said to the Israelites in exile through the prophet Jeremiah, “I know the plans I have in mind for you – it is the Lord who speaks – plans for peace, not disaster, reserving a future full of hope for you. Then when you call to me, and come to plead with me, I will listen to you. When you seek me you shall find me, when you seek me with all your heart; I will let you find me – it is the Lord who speaks.” (Jer 29:11-13) Seek the Lord, rely on His strength, pray for His wisdom, know His will and act according to it. This is what it means to act from His own glorious power because we are one with the Lord in mind, heart and soul. St Paul says, in this way, “you will be able to lead the kind of life which the Lord expects of you, a life acceptable to him in all its aspects; showing the results in all the good actions you do and increasing your knowledge of God.”
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
Note: You may share this reflection with someone.