Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
Years ago a mother in Nashville, Tennessee, gave birth prematurely to a tiny baby girl. Shortly afterward, the baby caught pneumonia. Next, the baby caught scarlet fever. Finally, she contracted polio. The last illness left her one leg badly crippled and her foot twisted inward. When the little girl reached the age of five, she hobbled about on metal braces while the other kids ran and skipped rope. When she reached eleven, the handicapped girl asked her little sister to stand watch at the door while she practiced walking without braces. She didn’t want her parents to catch her walking around without the braces on. For a whole year the girl continued her secret walks. Then one day she began to feel guilty about them. So she told her doctor what she had been doing. He was flabbergasted. He agreed to let her continue, but only for short periods of time. Well, the girl’s idea of a short period was far different from the doctor’s idea. And to her periods of walking without braces the handicapped girl added periods of prayer. To make a long story short, that girl eventually threw away her braces for good.
That story fits in beautifully with today’s gospel. It illustrates a point that we need to hear again and again in life. It illustrates a point that we must see dramatized over and over in life. It illustrates the point that perseverance is one of the greatest powers in the world. Peter and his friends had fished all night without success. Had it not been for Jesus’ words to them, that’s the way their effort for that day would have ended. But Jesus persuaded them to try one more time. They did, and we know what happened. That try made the difference between success and failure. The story of Peter and his friends illustrates a further point. It is this: Jesus came involved in the process, and that’s when things changed. The previous castings of the net – perhaps 20 or 30 in the course of the night – were done on their own. But in the final casting, Jesus became involved. And that’s when things took a 180-degree turn. That’s when things exceeded their wildest dream.
Keeping that in mind, let’s return to the story of the girl in Nashville. Whatever happened to her? The same thing happened to her that happened to Peter and his friends. Something happened that exceeded her wildest dream. The girl began not only to walk without braces but even to run. And she ran and ran and ran. At the age of sixteen, this incredible girl qualified for the Olympics in Melbourne, Australia, and went on to win a bronze medal in the women’s 400-metre relay. And four years after that, in the 1960 Olympics at Rome, she became the first woman in history to win three gold medals in track and field. That girl was none other than Wilma Rudolph. Wilma came home to a ticker-tape parade and a private audience with President Kennedy. She was given the Sullivan Award, naming her the nation’s top amateur athlete. Wilma Rudolph is a living example of the power of perseverance. She is a tribute to the power and potential of the human spirit. Her life dramatizes that no handicap – no matter how great – is a match for perseverance and prayer.
Put those two things together and, if it be God’s will, the result can exceed our wildest dream, just as it also did for Peter and his friends.
Ray Kroc, the genius and driving force behind the McDonald fast-food empire, put perseverance, or persistence, near the top of the ladder of human powers. He wrote: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful individuals with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent.” Add to persistence and determination the power of prayer, and you have a combination that is unbeatable.
Today’s gospel invites us to do two things. First, it invites us to do what Peter and his friends did. It invites us to persevere in our efforts in life. After recasting the net 20 or 30 times, Peter could have given up on catching anything. But he didn’t give up. He recast the net one final time, and that spelled the difference between success and failure. Second, today’s gospel invites us to involve Jesus in our efforts in life. It was when Jesus entered the picture that Peter and his friends succeeded. They not only succeeded. They exceeded their wildest dream. It was the same with Wilma Rudolph. It can also be the same for each of us here.
Let’s close with a prayer that was composed b someone who was a model of perseverance and prayer, St. Ignatius of Loyola. Please pray along with me, in silence, his familiar “Prayer for Generosity”: “Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds: to toil and not to seek for rest; to labour and not to ask for reward, except to know that I am doing your will.”
God Bless You,