When we see water, several ideas enter our minds. If I were to bring you to the seashore or a stream, its sight would make you think of many things. Some of us will associate it with food. We like to eat seafood, and when we are by the sea, we are reminded of seafood. For those who like to swim, when they see the water, they get so excited to swim. There are others who think of the sea as a place of beauty and serenity, where they can just sit on the shore, contemplating and soaking in its beauty and magnificence. Thus we see that the sea affects us in different ways.
But for the Jews, the sea has only one meaning. When they see the sea, only one thing enters their mind – fear. Fear, because for them the sea is the dwelling place of the evil spirit powers. They believe that Satan lives under the sea. We do not associate Satan and the evil powers with the sea.
But when we see a Balete tree, we associate it with a ghost. It has been a custom for Filipinos, that when they pass by a termite or ant hill, they invoke these words “tabi-tabi po,” which are really addressed to the small creatures believed to haunt these mounds of earth. These beliefs, of course, are not true. But they have formed part of our folk practices, and culture. It is the same with the Jews. They are afraid to plunge into the sea because they believe that Satan and all the evil powers are there.
In the whole Old Testament, there was only one occasion when man was victorious over the sea: When Moses and the Israelites crossed the sea. The crossing of Moses and the Israelites over the sea proved that the Israelites were victorious over the sea and, therefore, victorious over Satan who lived under the sea.
That was the only victory over the sea.
They also remember Noah and the great flood. That is why they are afraid when there is a big body of water. That is why in the Gospel, Jesus Christ walked over the water not because of anything else, but to show that the water cannot engulf him, that Satan and the evil powers cannot engulf Him, that He is victorious over water, over sin.
The Gospel once more brings us to the seaside and here Peter is casting nets. The Lord tells Peter, “Come, I will make you a fisher of men.” So the Lord is actually sending Peter into the sea – which the Jews believe is where all sin and evil are – and as a fisherman, to haul the people trapped in that sea of sin and evil.
The Lord does not only want Peter to gather people to Him, He also wants to save the people trapped in sin and evil. It is a beautiful vocation; nothing can be more beautiful than that. The Lord tells Peter, “Come into the sea. Expose yourself to sin and evil so that you may save other men.”
But that is not a vocation exclusive to Peter or the other disciples. We, too, are called to save other people. Every Christian is called not to be afraid to plunge into the sea. “Don’t be afraid for I am with you.” That is our vocation.
Some of us may say that we have been going to church and hearing Mass. We have been praying to the Lord to heal our loved ones. To heal a husband who goes out with other women, to heal a nagging wife, to heal a son hooked on drugs. So we pray and tell the Lord, “Lord, I am here because I want to save another creature. I want to save another person. I want to save somebody being drowned by the evils under the sea.”
But then we get discouraged and say, “Lord you are not listening to my prayers! Like Peter, I have been casting my net all night. All night long I have been fishing. I have not seen the results of my prayers.”
At the height of your discouragement and frustration, the Lord tells you, “Plunge your net into the deep sea, and you will be catching a miraculous number of fish.”
Some of us are ready to give up. Others are so tired from fishing all night. We have prayed all these years for the conversion of our loved ones, and yet, God does not seem to listen. The Lord is telling you, “Pray again, offer you sacrifices again for your loved ones who need conversion. Plunge your net into the sea. Duc In altum (in Latin). And then you will be catching the graces you have been asking for all these years.”
The problem with us is that we give up when the grace is about to be given to us. The problem with us is that we give up fishing when the Lord is already there, telling us to plunge our nets into the sea. The problem with us is that we have become victims of discouragement, we have started to doubt the value of our own prayers. Peter did, Isaiah did, Paul did. They all doubted and the Lord called them and told them, “Come after me, I will make you a fisher of men. Come after me, I will make you an instrument of saving other people from the evil one that resides under the sea. You have fished all night, you have fished all your life, you have fished all these years, you have prayed and sacrificed, do not be discouraged. Now is the time. Cast you net into deep waters and see your prayers answered right now.”
Peter believed, I pray that you, too, may believe. Let us not get discouraged. Let us be ready and willing again to cast our nets into deep sea. Let us not give up on praying for the conversion of our loved ones. In God’s time they will return to Jesus.
I shall pray for you, please pray for me so that all of us may be ready to heed the challenge of the Lord to “Cast your nets into deep sea.” He admonishes us: “It does not matter if you have fished all night and caught nothing. Now is the time to fish. Cast your nets, believe in me, I am showing you the way.”
PLUNGE INTO THE DEEP
Only Jesus, Always Jesus