Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
The Gospel according to St. Luke 5:1-11
“At that time, when the multitudes pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God, He stood by the Lake of Genesareth. And He saw two ships standing by the lake; but the fishermen were gone out of them and were washing their nets; and going into one of the ships that was Simon’s: He desired him to draw back a little from the land, and sitting, He taught the multitudes out of the ship. Now, when He had ceased to speak, He said to Simon: Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon, answering, said to Him: Master, we have labored all the night, and have taken nothing, but at Thy word I will let down the net. And when they had done this, they enclosed a very great multitude of fishes; and their net broke; and they beckoned to their partners that were in the other ship, that they should come and help them; and they came and filled both the ships, so that they were almost sinking. Which when Simon Peter saw he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was wholly astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of fishes which they had taken: and so were also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. And Jesus saith to Simon : Fear not, from hence forth thou shalt catch men. And having brought their ships to land, leaving all things, they followed Him.”
Summary of Sunday’s Meditation
First, the causes of the little progress we make in virtue; second, the means for making progress in the future. We will then make the resolution: First, to maintain in ourselves a firm determination to advance in virtue; second, in all things to set before ourselves Jesus Christ as the model of this progress, and to do everything in union with Him. Our spiritual nosegay shall be the words of the Apostle: Let us increase always in Jesus Christ, who is the adorable Head of which we are the members. (Eph. 4:15)
Meditation for the Morning
Let us adore Jesus Christ instructing us in the gospel of the day upon the causes of our insignificant progress in virtue, and on the means whereby to make real progress in the future. Let us thank Him for the great goodness with which He instructs us; and let us ask of Him grace to understand and to practice what He teaches.
The Causes of our Little Progress in Virtue
Our gospel shows us three causes. First: The apostles had labored all night and had taken nothing (Luke 5:5). There is nothing astonishing in that; what could they take when they could not see anything? It is the unhappiness of those who labor without faith: some of them mechanically, and without any definite intention, like the animals; others from purely natural principles, like the honest pagan; others from principles of interest and self-love, like the men of the world; such as these obtain nothing from what they do, and spite of a great deal of labor they never advance. Those alone make progress who, living a life of faith, are guided in all that they do by an upright and pure intention to please God, keeping constantly the eyes of their heart fixed upon the divine good pleasure. As the eye of their intention is simple, the whole body of their action shines with a splendor of sanctity which is worthy of heaven (Matt. 6:22). Second, the apostles had labored without Jesus; He had not been with them during the night: this was the second cause which rendered their fishing useless. If it be not the spirit of Jesus which animates us, His example which directs us, His love which inspires us, we lose time and do not advance. As the shoot draws its life from the vine, and is dried up and dies if it be separated from it, so Christian action has no life and no merit except by its union with Jesus (John 15:4). In order to labor usefully, we must therefore do everything, say everything, and think everything through the spirit of Jesus, and in union with Him (Canon of the Mass). Third, the apostles had labored under the inspiration of their own will; Jesus Christ had not yet told them where they ought to cast their nets; therefore they had caught nothing. But when once He had given them His orders, and they were able to say: We have cast in the net where Thou hadst commanded (Luke 5:5), they worked wonders. In the same way, all that we do without consulting Our Lord, according to our own pleasure and our own fancy, is time lost, even as, on the contrary, all that is done under the inspiration of His grace, through obedience to the spirit of Christ, makes us advance in the practice of solid virtue. Let us recognize by these signs the reason of our little progress, and let us correct ourselves.
Means whereby to make Progress in Virtue
First means: To have a determined will always to tend to more lofty perfection. O Christian soul, do not remain stationary near to the earth and its vain enjoyments; advance constantly towards the sea of holy love; advance every day, every hour, every moment; gain the open sea, and run in the path of the commandments and of counsel; tend always to higher perfection (Luke 5:4). To desire always to love more and more, to desire to be always more recollected, more humble, more fervent; to desire always to perform the present action better than the one which preceded it; to desire always to advance, because not to advance is to go back; this is the first means for making progress. Second means: Never to allow ourselves to be discouraged by failure. The apostles had labored all night without taking anything; but as soon as Jesus spoke, they cast in their nets and redoubled their efforts (Luke 5:5). In the same way, after our faults we ought not to allow ourselves to be cast down, but derive from those very faults a motive for doing better, in order to repair past evil by present good; we must be animated by a double measure of love, that we may repair the unhappy moments in which we have not loved; such is the second means of making progress. The third is to keep ourselves in a state of humility after we have received graces. St. Peter, on seeing the miraculous draught of fishes which he had just made, falls on his knees before Jesus Christ, recognizing himself to be unworthy of the favor he had just received, and exclaiming that he was nothing but a sinner (Luke 5:8). Following his example, we ought to refer to divine goodness the little good which is in us, or which is done by us, without esteeming ourselves any the more for it, without taking pleasure in it, and without congratulating ourselves upon it as though it were as product of our own nature. We ought, in the midst of the greatest graces, to look upon ourselves in the presence of God as being sinners unworthy of standing before Him, more unworthy still of His favors, and make an exact share between God and ourselves: all that is good belongs to God, evil only belongs to me. Alas Lord, I confess, to my confusion, that I have but little practiced these three means; but henceforth I will apply myself to them with my whole heart; I will every day endeavor to do better; I will every day encourage myself to do so, and I will constantly maintain the humility incumbent on me because of my wretchedness.