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Homily for 10/19/08 - P18 - Trust and Obedience

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 5:1-11 This miracle that we heard in the Gospel is very interesting in that this is one of the first miracles that our Lord did to show Himself to His
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 19, 2008
      Luke 5:1-11

      This miracle that we heard in the Gospel is very interesting in that
      this is one of the first miracles that our Lord did to show Himself to
      His disciples when he called them. Then He repeated this miracle again
      after His resurrection when they had returned to Galilee to their
      fishing. Again, He made Himself known to them through this miracle and
      the memory was so strong that Peter immediately recognized who He was
      and jumped from the boat to swim to shore. In this case, however, the
      disciples had not yet begun to follow Jesus for they were still
      fishermen by trade. Certainly they knew that Jesus was a teacher and
      that He was also a miracle worker (for previously He had even come to
      Simon Peter’s home and cured his wife’s mother of a fever), but they had
      not yet left their work to follow Him. As His reputation grew, a great
      crowd of people began to follow Jesus, even out into the areas far from
      the cities, pressing to hear Him teach and to bring the sick so that He
      might heal them. At this time our Lord was on the seashore and He saw
      two boats coming in from a night’s fishing. They had caught nothing and
      were empty. The crowd was so great that Jesus entered one of the boats
      and had them push off a little way from the shore to get room. From this
      platform, He began to teach the people. When He was finished, He told
      the fishermen to return to deeper water and to cast their nets. When
      Simon Peter explained that they had already done so but had come up
      empty, Jesus directed them to put their nets down on the other side of
      the boat. Consider for a moment how Jesus’ direction must have seemed to
      these men at this moment. They had been fishermen all of their lives and
      knew their trade well. They had had a frustrating night with nothing to
      show for it and to top it all off, as soon as they reached shore this
      teacher climbs aboard and tells them to push off again. They were
      frustrated and tired and certainly irritable. Then this teacher who
      knows nothing of boats and fishing tells them to go out again and fish
      and tries to tell them how to do their jobs. The fishermen knew that
      fish are not easily caught during the day (which is why they were out
      all night with their nets) and not only that, if there aren’t fish on
      one side of the boat, there generally aren’t fish on the other either
      (as the boat is small and fish tend to swim in large schools). But, even
      though they did not understand or see the purpose in this exercise, they
      knew enough of Jesus’ reputation as a miracle worker to give the whole
      useless exercise a try and so tossed their nets where He told them. And
      the nets were full of fish, so full that they were close to breaking and
      when they pulled the fish into the boats they were so heavy that they
      nearly sunk. What a great catch it was and they would have missed it had
      they relied on their own skill, experience and understanding rather than
      following the seemingly foolish instructions of a religious teacher.

      This miracle demonstrates for us the importance of trust of God and
      obedience to His direction. When we seek out God and come to Him, He
      bestows His grace on us so that we are born again and fills us with His
      life giving Spirit (through the Mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation).
      And He does not leave us then but stays with us teaching us (through the
      life of the Church) how to live so that we might grow and develop
      according to His image and likeness. There are many things within the
      tradition of the Church that don’t always come with an explanation of
      how they work. Some of the things are even counterintuitive to our way
      of life. In His sermon on the mount, our Lord gives us some examples of
      this by comparing the world says and what the demands of the heavenly
      kingdom are (You have heard it said … but I say unto you …) The most
      extreme sounding of these comparisons was the saying “You have heard it
      said that you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say
      unto you love your enemies, bless them that curse you do good to them
      that despise you …” Whoever heard of such a thing! And yet we now accept
      this saying as the true path of following Christ. Through our experience
      of Him and our love for Him we have come to trust Him and so follow His
      instruction, even when what He teaches us doesn’t make sense. And we see
      the results of such trust and obedience in the lives of the saints in
      whom the image and likeness of God has become visible as great points of
      light even to those of us still struggling with the basics.

      It is not uncommon, in the life of the Church that we run up against
      traditions that don’t make sense or that we don’t understand. The
      fasting rule, for example, is frequently the subject of much debate. We
      don’t understand all the whys of what we do, but we do know from
      experience that even though we don’t understand why, when we do follow
      the rule, it has a positive effect on the soul. Seeing this positive
      effect, we all search for understanding of why it works and as a result
      there are whole books written about the reasons that we fast and how it
      works in its various components. Some of these explanations are helpful,
      some are not, but in the end none of them fully explains the way that
      fasting actually works on the soul. But from our experience we know that
      it does and so we strive to follow the rule if for no other reason than
      simple obedience.

      There are many other traditions that we follow that seem
      counter-intuitive or that do not make sense within the context of our
      worldly lives. The way that we pray, the effect of the works of
      righteousness, the labor of self denial, the prescriptions on how to
      dress or how to act, the division of responsibilities between clergy and
      laity or between men and women. All of these things and more have
      aspects that are beyond our understanding and even though they don’t
      “make sense” we still follow them, not out of our understanding, but out
      of trust and faith in God.

      The fishermen in the boat that day did not understand how it could help
      to go out fishing during the day and toss their nets over the wrong side
      of the boat. They knew their business, who did this teacher think he
      was? He could talk about God, but what did he know about fishing? And
      yet, they had just enough trust to obey without understanding and as a
      result reaped a reward that was far beyond anything that their own
      skill, talent and reasoning could have provided them.

      We too are often faced with things in the life of the Church we don’t
      understand, things that just seem out of date, or out of touch with the
      way we live, or even superstitious. If we reject them because we don’t
      understand them, then we will not experience the abundant blessing and
      grace that comes from them. As we experience God and learn to trust Him
      more and more, then understanding and explanations become less and less
      important and we embrace all that He instructs us to do whether or not
      it “makes sense” because we know that He knows what we need and He will
      show us the way to go and will lead us unerringly on the path of
      salvation into the Kingdom of Heaven.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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