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,
Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
We heard in the Gospel “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” In the time of Jesus, there were two places of worship in Israel: the Temple and the synagogue. There was only one Temple; it was located in Jerusalem. But there were hundreds of synagogues; every village had one. The Temple was a place of sacrifice. There Jews offered to God such things as lambs and doves. The synagogue was a place of instruction. There Jews listened to God’s word and tried to apply it to their lives. As you’d expect, the synagogue service and the temple service have their counterparts in our Mass.
The first half of the Mass is like the synagogue service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Word and deals with reading Scripture and applying it to our lives – just as Jesus did for the people of Nazareth in today’s gospel. The last half of the Mass is like the temple service. It’s called the Liturgy of the Eucharist and deals with offering sacrifice – just as Jesus did at the Last Supper. There we read: “Likewise (Jesus took) the cup after (the disciples) had eaten, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed (that is, sacrificed) for you.’” Luke 22:20
Let’s now look more closely at the first half of Mass, the Liturgy of the Word. Our main activity during the Liturgy of the Word is listening to Scripture. The key word here is listening. “Well, how do we listen to God’s Word?”
The answer is that we listen to it in three ways. We listen with the ear of the mind. We listen with the ear of the heart. We listen with the ear of the soul. First, the mind. How do we listen with the ear of the mind? We do this by trying to understand God’s Word. We do more. We try to make God’s Word come alive for us. For example, St. Ignatius of Loyola did this by closing his eyes and imagining that he was present in the synagogue of Nazareth, listening to Jesus. For instance, he’d imaging the emotion that certainly choked the voice of Jesus when he said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me.” And he’s imaging the excitement that certainly electrified the congregation when Jesus said, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” And so listening with the mind means not only understanding God’s Word but also making it come alive. The second way we should listen to God’s Word is with the ear of the heart. This means we take God’s Word to heart. We try to see how it applies to our own life situation. Years ago Charlie Pitts owned the construction company that built the Toronto Subway in Canada. The more Charlie’s business grew, the most his personal and family life suffered. One day things got so bad that Charlie turned to the Bible for help. As he read it one sentence suddenly leaped off the page. It was these words of Jesus: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?” Luke 9:25
These words spoke right to Charlie. They said to him, “Charlie, this is what’s happening to you!” And so listening with the heart means taking God’s Word to heart and seeing how it applies to our own situation. The final way we should listen to God’s Word is with the ear of the soul. This means besides taking God’s Word to heart, we also talk to God about it. We do more; we do what Charlie Pitts did. We ask God to help us take the necessary steps to make our lives conform to his Word. For example, after Charlie Pitts prayed over his situation and discussed it with his wife, he sold his company before it destroyed him. Charlie went on to buy and manage a hotel and a golf resort. And the income from this enterprise was donated to the spread of the Gospel. The third step, then, in listening to God’s Word is talking it over with God to see what he may want to say to us about it. Of course, we don’t expect God to answer us in words. He usually speaks to us in a spiritual way in the depths of our soul. One thing more is true about God. He doesn’t always speak to us immediately, during the time of prayer. Often God does this outside the time of prayer, in the course of our daily life. For example, we may begin to experience a growing desire to do something about our situation. We may begin to get ideas on how to deal with our situation. We may begin to feel a subtle pull toward one of these ideas. All of these spiritual movements may be speaking to us in a wordless way in the depths of our soul.
We should listen to God’s Word in three ways: with the ear of our mind, with the ear of our heart, and with the ear of our soul. In other words, we make God’s Word come alive in our mind. We take it to heart. We talk to God about it and listen to what he might want to say to us about it.
God Bless You,