Dear Ascension Family,
The science of mathematics is full of wonders. Take, for example, such mathematical symbols as the minus sign and the plus sign. The minus sign is a short horizontal bar, whereas the plus sign is the same horizontal bar crossed with a vertical bar. Deprived of its cross-bar, the plus sign becomes a minus sign. The minus sign spells negativity, loss, deficit, deprivation. The plus sign entails positivity, gain, profit, abundance. Another marvel of mathematics is the decimal point. Take, for example, the figure one million. Suppose you have such amount as the balance in your bank account. It is formed of the number 1 followed by six zeros, followed by a decimal point, and followed by two zeros for the cents. But, if you displace the decimal point by one figure and move it to the right, your fortune increases tenfold. On the other hand, if you move the decimal point to the left, your fortune decreases tenfold. Move the decimal point to the far left, and your million dollars would become only ten cents in your account! The decimal point is apparently the most insignificant among mathematical symbols, yet it can make or break you.
These two examples can illustrate the mechanics of the spiritual life. Without a personal relationship with God, without a vertical dimension in our lives, our existence becomes a mere minus sign, a flat horizon limited to this world. And then nothing makes sense, nothing satisfies us. However, when we lift our eyes toward God and invite him into our lives, everything changes from negativity to positivity. Is it a mere coincidence that the sign plus has the shape of the cross? When we embrace the cross in our lives – which means accepting to die to our selfishness in order to love and serve others – then our lives blossom into something beautiful. Likewise we can say that God acts somewhat like the decimal point. The place we give God in our lives makes us paupers or millionaires. This basic truth was spelled out by Jesus in this simple and crystal clear statement, “Without me you can do nothing”(John 15:5).
The statement of Jesus is perfectly illustrated in this Sunday’s gospel reading. Peter being a man of action, proposed to go fishing. He was accompanied by six other disciples. They had labored the whole night, but they caught nothing. Cast after cast was made, and time and time again the nets were drawn in and nothing was found except probably twigs. When the sun began to rise and cast its rays on the sea, they heard the voice of Jesus, which they did not recognize, saying, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” And they answered, “No.” Jesus’ question was intentionally ironic. He was having fun with them. In addition to the fun of surprising them by appearing to them at all, he was poking fun at their lack of success with the one thing they were supposed to be good at: catch fish. Not once in the Gospels is it recorded that Peter and his companions caught a single fish without Jesus’ help.
So Jesus told them to try again, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” When they followed the command of Jesus, they made a magnificent catch. All their experience of fishing has taught them that it is only during the hours of darkness that the fish are near the surface, feeding. When the sun comes up, the fish go deep, far beyond the reach of the simple nets that Peter and his companions had. Yet here, in broad daylight, they cast the net, and they were not able to pull it in because of the large number of fish. In short, without Jesus they experienced failure but with Jesus they were a great success.
If, like Peter and company, we have been working all night and have caught nothing, or we have been working hard on something with little or no success, maybe it is because we have been working alone, without Jesus. Maybe the reason for our failure is that we have been trying to do it all by ourselves.
Maybe the reason for our failure is that we have forgotten what Jesus said to his disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing”(Jn 15:5).
The apostle Paul was very much aware of this basic principle of spiritual life. In his letter to the Romans, Paul acknowledges, without Christ, “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want”(Rom 7:19). However, everything changed with the powerful presence of Christ in his life. With Christ present, Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I can do anything through him who strengthens me”(Phil 4:13).
Too many times in our lives we went fishing on our own, without inviting Christ to fish with us. And the first thing we know, we have spent a lot of time and a lot of energy but with disappointing results. It is only when we work for the Lord that we can find positive and profitable results. It is only when we obey his words that we can be sure of success and satisfaction in life. It is He who makes things fruitful, the Lord who makes things happen. Apart from him, we are helpless.
The next time we go fishing, let us invite Christ aboard our boat. If we do, we are in for nice surprises!
Praying for you all.