Homily 561– 16 APE
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
September 24, 2023
Epistle – (181) – 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 and (99) – Romans 8:28-39
Gospel – (17) – Luke 5:1-11 and (106) – Luke 21:12-19
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God.
Have you ever had one of those days? One of the days where very little went right, and very little got accomplished? Every time you began to think you were getting ahead, something broke and you had to start over?
Now, I’m sure that at one point in all our lives, we’ve had that day. We left work, perhaps, and got home to find our spouse had an equally bad day. But instead of enjoying each other’s company, we have something that sets one, or both, of us off.
Dinner got cold. It wasn’t what I was expecting. The kids got in trouble at school. The cable is out, the internet isn’t working. The car needs to go to the shop – for the third time this month.
Maybe this is how Simon Peter felt when Christ told him to return to the boat, and cast the net – again.
How many of us would have enough faith to believe Christ, to do what He asked? With no promises, not a single indication that something powerful would happen?
How many things would we miss? How many great catches of fish would we forego?
Simon Peter is an amazing man. In the midst of the worst possible night of fishing – it’s difficult to get worse than catching nothing! But in the midst of that, in the morning, Christ asked him to put out to the deep again.
St. Peter basically said to Jesus, You are nuts. But I will do as you ask. St. Peter knew that fishing only really works at night. The fish spend the heat of the day toward the bottom of the water, and feed at night when things cool off. Every fisherman knows that you have to get up really early in the morning to be a good fisherman.
Which is, by the way, why I’ve never been a good fisherman.
So, tired, frustrated, depressed, anxious Peter says OK. I’ll do it.
We are all like Peter. We’ve all had those days. I’m not sure I would have the faith to do it all again, especially not knowing the outcome in advance.
In reality, most of our lives are spent this way. We’re struggling through life the best way we know, and here comes Christ, asking us to do something. To love the people we encounter. To help the people we encounter, if we are able. To recognize the needs of others, before even our own.
The conventional wisdom of our day is that we cannot care for others unless we are first taking care of ourselves. The world almost wants us to believe that we cannot care nor love for others unless we are content – unless we are satisfied, unless we feel love.
I’m not sure that is the case, though. I almost think that is dangerous thinking. Because when are we ever content and loved, at least in the way we want to feel content and loved?
I daresay, for most of us, never! We never feel capable of caring for ourselves, much less anyone else.
And I think that may be the point that Christ is trying to convey to us. We shouldn’t try to care for ourselves, because it isn’t possible. Rather, we care for each other. We love each other.
We have established that self-love is the root of our fallen nature. That ego and pride gets in the way of our spiritual, and physical, and emotional happiness. Why do we believe that self-care provides the answer?
The answer, I think, is in each of us, wounded as we are, bearing each other’s burdens. Instead of self-care, we need community care. We need to learn to care for each other.
And that goes back to our self-imposed isolation from one another, which may be the curse of our age. We isolate ourselves from each other, sometimes physically. Gated communities with restricted access. Clubs that require membership. Exclusivity is the sought-after goal of our day.
Or, we isolate ourselves in other ways. We roll up our car windows and turn up the music so we can’t hear the cries of the needy from the streetcorners. We pull out our smartphones and head into a world that is just ours. A world where we can choose what we want to experience, and ignore the world around us, and ignore God as well.
Even though I’m an introvert primarily, I love to notice people. That gets me in trouble sometimes. When I was living in New York City, looking at other people could get me in trouble, even in public places like a park or especially on the Subway. This was before the internet and smartphones and much of the technology we have today.
A city of 20 million people and one still felt painfully alone.
So with all this background, how can we share each other’s burdens in our day and time? The first step is to get out from behind our screen – whether a smartphone or computer or windshield or home – and meet our neighbors. Meet our families, even!
Not just superficially either. Over time, we become closer and closer to one another. We (hopefully) begin to share with each other. We share our problems, and we also provide encouragement to others when they share their problems with us!
We borrow tools, and play together, and pitch in on one another’s projects. We break bread together. We laugh together and at times, we cry together.
And over time, a bond develops. And the bond grows into love. The love of Christ.
And finally, even though we don’t know this at the beginning, we are healed. Just like Peter took in two boatloads of fish, an amazing result. We too experience healing, and completeness, and joy.
And it begins with coming out from our self-imposed isolation, and letting our guard down, just a smidge, and taking a risk to love.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!