This is an excerpt from Archbishop Miller’s homily at Holy Rosary Cathedral Feb. 9, at Vancouver’s annual Mass for university students.
It is always a great pleasure to celebrate with you this now
Annual University Mass, and I thank you especially for the extra effort it
involved tonight because of the harsh weather conditions.
My special thanks to all those who work in the campus
ministry and chaplaincy offices at our institutions of higher learning; I especially wish to express my gratitude to Father Julio, the chaplain at SFU
who, with Lioba, really helped organized this evening; Father Rob, chaplain at
Corpus Christi and St. Markâ€™s Colleges; and Matt Martin at the John Paul II
Pastoral Centre. And I would be remiss if I did not give a shout-out to CCO for
the courageous missionary work they are carrying out on the campuses of SFU and
At this Eucharist, we
come together to praise and thank the Lord for his call to you to be engaged in
higher education as students, faculty, or administrators. Because you are
baptized into Christ Jesus, he calls you to let the radiant light of the truth
and beauty of his Gospel shine on your learning, research, and activities. You
know well the difficult but exciting challenges that you meet because you take
your faith seriously on campus and want it to be relevant to all your
day-to-day activities and interactions with friends and colleagues.
Theophany and Unworthiness Cleansed
In the First Reading we heard proclaimed, Isaiah is sent
reeling by the magnificence of a heavenly vision. He fears that the divine
splendour he experienced will bring with it an inexorable demand that he could
not meet because of his sinfulness: â€śWoe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of
unclean lipsâ€ť (Is 6:5). Like us, when we experience God, even if it be but a
gentle whisper, we become aware of our â€śabsolute unworthiness.â€ťÂ But then the Angel came from God with the
burning ember to purify him by touching his lips.
This baptismal-like gesture not only cleansed Isaiah from
sin but it created a new being, giving him a new heart, a new strength, and a
new calling for him to be a prophet.
Simon Peterâ€™s Call
Now, in light of this eveningâ€™s Gospel, just for a moment
place yourselves in Simon Peterâ€™s shoes, in the shoes of the fisherman. For a
few minutes, imagine that â€śyou are Peter.â€ť
St. Luke presents Simon as one who, like the Prophet Isaiah,
was overcome by his encounter with Godâ€™s awesome greatness, which he saw
revealed in Jesus.
The account begins simply enough, with Jesusâ€™ gesture of
getting into Simonâ€™s boat and pushing a little out from the shore from where he
kept on teaching the pressing crowds.
â€śDuc in Altum!â€ť: â€śPut out into the deep waterâ€ť
In return for Simonâ€™s small favour, Jesus then orders him to
â€śput out into deep water [they had been in shallow water near the shore] and
let down [his] your nets for a catchâ€ť (Lk 5:4). This an odd request, given that
Simon tells him that he had been fishing all night with his friends, but had
caught nothing (cf. Lk 5:5)
Simon did as he was told by Jesus. Even though the Master
was not known to be a skilled fisherman, Simon trusted Jesus. But his trust was
shaky. He seems to have oscillated between doubt â€“ are you kidding, weâ€™ve been
fishing all night? â€“ and faith â€“ â€śif you say so.â€ťÂ This, it seems to me, is the situation of many
of us as disciples. We hover between doubt (itâ€™s too good to be true) and faith (I am willing to stake my whole
life on Jesus).
The Miraculous CatchÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
After lowering his nets in the deep water, Simonâ€™s are
suddenly filled to the bursting point.
Oddly enough, the Apostle was not immediately grateful, but
full of dread when faced with the weight of the miraculous catch of fish hauled
in. It was causing the two boats to sink, and swamping him in the process! Such
excess is often the case with Jesusâ€™ miracles. They point to his infinite
graciousness and overflowing mercy, just like the over-abundance of wine at
Whereas we so often live and act in a world of skimpiness
and narrowness, the real world, Godâ€™s world, as Jesus shows here, is one of
overflowing grace. He gives us far more than we deserve!
Peterâ€™s Fear: â€śGo away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful
Aware of his own unworthiness at being chosen to haul in
such a great catch, Simon shouts out: â€śGo away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful
manâ€ť (Lk 5:8).
We, too, can be tempted to cry out with the same words when
the Lord draws near to us. At times we find it hard to believe that Christ is
calling us personally to abide with him and to carry out his mission in our
world. We see our own weaknesses and frailty. We know that we are as full of
holes as a sponge. â€śCould he not have chosen someone else, more capable, more
holy?â€ť we ask. â€śBut Jesus has looked lovingly upon each one of us, and in this
gaze of his we may have confidence,â€ť said Pope Benedict. It
is precisely in this way, in the humility of one who knows that he or she is a
sinner, that we are called.
Simon Peter thought that there should be distance between
himself as a sinner and Jesus, the Holy One. But, as Pope Francis has reminded
us in commenting on this passage, â€śIn truth, his [Peterâ€™s] very condition as a
sinner requires that the Lord not distance himself from him, in the same way
that a doctor cannot distance himself from those who are sick.â€ťÂ
It is not shameful, therefore, for us to feel as Peter did.
On the contrary, it is spiritually necessary that we recognize our own
inadequacy and sinfulness before the living God, before daring to embark on any
mission he might call upon us to carry out.
Jesusâ€™ Reply: â€śDo not be afraidâ€ť
In Jesusâ€™ reply to Simonâ€™s drawing back in fear, once again
we see the Lordâ€™s tenderness. He did not reproach or scold him for his lack of
faith. Rather, he invited him to trust and to be open to a new adventure with
him. Such an adventure rightly surpasses all expectation: â€śDo not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching peopleâ€ť (Lk 5:10).
Just as Jesus comforted Peter by showing his confidence in
him, so, too, he takes each of us by the hand, drawing us to himself and
saying: â€śDo not be afraid! I am with you. I will not abandon you; do not leave
Today, you are, each one of you, being called to leave the
shallow waters â€śwhere everything is safe, secure and well insured,â€ťÂ and to put out into the deep sea of the world
around you and to let down the nets of the Gospel, so as to win your friends
and colleagues to God, to Christ, to true life. After all, â€śOnly when we meet
the living God in Christ do we know what life is … There is nothing more
beautiful than to know him [Christ] and to speak to others of our friendship
with himâ€ť (Pope Benedict XVI).
That day on the lakeshore Peter could not have imagined that
one day he would preach the Gospel fearlessly as a â€śfisher of menâ€ť for his
Lord, even to the shedding of his blood for love of him. The Apostle accepted
this surprising call, and let himself be involved in this great adventure. He
was generous; he recognized his limits, but ultimately he believed in the One
who was calling him and followed him.
Like Maryâ€™s trusting â€śyesâ€ť to the Angel Gabriel (cf. Lk
1:38), Peter, too, said â€śyes,â€ť a courageous â€śyes,â€ť and became a disciple of
This is what the Lord asks of each of you: to say â€śyesâ€ť from
your heart to the will of the Father, inscrutable and mysterious though it be:
â€śthy will be done.â€ť
One thing for sure is that, if everyone is â€śPeter,â€ť then the
Lord wants each of us to fish for people, for the women and men whom he places
on our path. We can do this â€śfishingâ€ť only because Jesus promises to be by our
side. He knows who we are. He knows our past, but that is not what is important
Jesus has cast his nets wide, and we are his catch. He will not go away
from us. Thatâ€™s why he says over and over again: â€śDo not be afraid, for I am
with you â€“ and with you now.â€ť