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Deep Waters

February 10, 2019

A reflection for the 5th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year C. The readings are Isaiah 6:1-2; 3-8; Psalm: 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 and Luke 5:1-11.

I just came back from World Youth Day in Panama. If you don’t know what WYD is, it’s a gathering where young people from all over the world come to meet with the Holy Father and with each other.  Each WYD has a theme and this year it was from the first chapter of Luke; Mary’s response to the angel: “I am the servant of the Lord; be it done unto me according to thy word.” This is clearly a Marian theme; but it is also a vocational theme: It’s about the call of Mary.

And that’s what the three readings today are. We can say that this is “call” Sunday. First we heard about the call of Isaiah; then about the call of St. Paul. The Gospel was about the call of Peter.

And for many young people, World Youth Day is about the call. So many young people get called to go to WYD. There were some 100,000 young pilgrims from around 140 countries who went to Panama. Once they get to WYD, many of them receive a more specific call..  I can trace my call to the diaconate right back to WYD 2002 in Toronto.

My experience of WYD Panama has very much been one of “call”. Preparing for this WYD has forced me to look back at my life and consider every moment where God called me, as a young child, growing up in Panama, through to calling me to come to Canada; to go to Theatre school; to marriage and parenthood, to work at Covenant House; to work at WYD 2002 and then on to Salt + Light Television, to being called to the diaconate. Needless to say, these “lessons in vocational discernment” could fill the pages of a book, which I may one day write. (If there are any publishers out there interested in learning more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.)


For now, there are three lessons that I want to share with you about listening to, recognizing and responding to the call that I think we can learn from these three readings, from Mary and from WYD.

First: You won’t hear or recognize the call if you think you won’t get called. But everyone gets called. Everyone. Isaiah says that he is a man of unclean lips, still he gets called. Paul says that he is born abnormally and not fit to be an apostle, still he gets called. Peter says that he is a sinful man, but he gets called. Mary was 13 or 14 years old… she gets called. Everyone going to WYD is young – but they get called. Everyone gets called. You may not hear the call or you may ignore the call, but if you’re ignoring it because you think you’re not fit to be called, or you have unclean lips or you are sinful, or too young, think again. You think you’re not worthy? No one is worthy! Paul was the least likely to be called. He was persecuting Christians! But he got called. We are all sinful. That’s probably why we are called. No one is worthy to be called, but we are all called. Don’t be afraid that God will ask you to do something you don’t want to do. God will never call you to anything that’s not already written in your heart; ’cause He wrote it in there. So don’t be afraid; everyone gets called.

Second: You won’t hear or recognize the call if you don’t have a relationship with God. Seems a bit obvious. Isaiah was at the Temple when he was called. He was at the Temple because he always went to the Temple. He had a relationship with God. And in the Temple he was worshiping God. Isaiah says he sees angels singing “holy, holy, holy.” He was probably also glorifying God. In the words of the Psalm: “In the sight of the angels, I will sing your praises Lord.” Not only do we have to have a relationship with God, but I think we have to have a “praise and worship” relationship with God.

Saul (who became Paul) also had a relationship with God. He was zealous about God and the Word and the Law. That’s why he was persecuting Christians; he thought they were blaspheming against the God of Israel. He was wrong and he was soon going to find out how to fix that, but he had a relationship with God and he thought he was glorifying God.

Simon Peter was not at the Temple like Isaiah; he was at work, but he already had a relationship with Jesus. We think that this was the first time they met, but a chapter earlier, Jesus was at Simon’s house healing his mother-in-law. It’s actually likely that Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John knew Jesus just from living in Capernaum. We know that  Jesus lived in Capernaum as an adult and Nazareth was not far away. They all knew each other. These were not large towns. Everyone knew everyone!  Jesus can get into Simon’s boat because they already knew each other. Do you know Jesus well enough that he would want to get in your boat?

After the miraculous catch, Peter falls on his knees and calls Jesus “Lord”. His relationship went from just knowing Jesus to glorifying him. He had a praise and worship relationship with Christ.

I think it’s fair to say that Mary had a relationship with God. I think it’s fair to say that Mary prayed; that she glorified God. One of the most beautiful prayers of praise come from Mary’s lips: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour…” the Magnificat. That’s Mary’s prayer.  And scripture tells us that she kept all these things in her heart. That means she prayed. Do you have a relationship with God? Do you pray? Do you glorify God? Do you let Christ embrace you? Do you keep your relationship with God in your heart?

It’s not surprise that at WYD there are many moments for prayer and worship. The most obvious one is Eucharistic Adoration at the Saturday night Vigil. In Panama, there where 600,000 people in silence, praying and praising before the Blessed Sacrament.

How can that not lead to a call?

Don’t be afraid to let Christ embrace you; to have a praise and worship relationship with Christ.

Third: You won’t hear or recognize the call unless you go into deep waters; unless you make a commitment. Just before the call, Jesus asks Peter to take the boat into deep waters. Isaiah is asked to touch his tongue with burning coals. Paul is asked to go to Damascus and find Ananias in the community of the very people he was persecuting. Mary was asked to agree to an unplanned/unwed pregnancy. That’s commitment.

Jesus wants to go all the way with us. He already gave his all to us on the Cross. He was us to make a commitment to him.

But we are scared of going into the deep waters. We’d rather stay in the shallow waters, where we can’t get hurt by the waves. I said this at the Feast of the Epiphany: we’re scared to enter. We come to Mass and we sit in the back. Why are Catholics scared of sitting in the front? We’re scared of coming in all the way, of making a commitment. We’re scared of coming all the way in because that means that we may get called. Well… if you want to get called you have to go into deep waters, but sometimes even if you don’t come in, like Paul, you still get called like so many young people at World Youth Day get called.

So many young people that go to WYD make a huge commitment in order to go. So many young people who spent thousands of dollars that they don’t have to go to Panama from Latvia, from Poland, from Korea, Hong Kong and from Australia. There was a group from Angola. For the Haitians, it cost them US$500 just to get a passport! That’s commitment.

The next WYD will be in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2022. Maybe that’s something that you can do as a parish: send a big delegation from your parish? How about you take this opportunity to enter into a deeper relationship with Christ as you prepare to go to the next WYD? How about we make a commitment to go out into the deep and go, young and old, no matter who you are, unfit, unclean, sinful, unworthy, to WYD in Portugal? If you can’t go, maybe you can help send someone else. Maybe that’s something you can do as a parish.

Don’t be afraid to go deeper, to go into deep waters, to deepen your relationship with Christ.

The day before I left Panama, I was at a funeral for a friend. Ramesh Chatlani was a former classmate of mine who died of cancer. At the service, which was at a Christian Church, they sang a song that I think brings all of this together: the call, the worship and the going into deep waters. It was a great way to celebrate Ramesh’s being called home and to remind us that we all get called.

It’s called Oceans by Hillsong United.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep my faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

Why don’t you start today. Or maybe the next time you’re at Mass try to go into the deep. Try to let God encounter you. Let Christ embrace you. Maybe it’ll happen when you sing Holy, Holy, Holy. Maybe it’ll happen when you are glorifying Him at the Consecration or as you receive the Eucharist. Maybe it will happen when you are distracted and thinking about the ocean or the last time you were at the beach. No matter. Be sure that when it happens, you too can say, “Here I am, Lord. Send me. “

And see you in Portugal in 2022!


Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
Hillsong UNITED
Words and Music by Matt Crocker, Joel Houston & Salomon Ligthelm
© 2012 Hillsong Music Publishing (APRA). All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

From → English, Reflections

One Comment
  1. Nadia permalink

    Inspiring as always! Welcome back. So sorry we missed you tonight.

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