Put out into the deep - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Put out into the deep - Fifth Sunday in Ordinary time

The other day someone asked me about the pectoral cross I am wearing. This pectoral cross is very special to me. I was ordained a bishop in September 2003. Shortly after my ordination I was in Rome and met with Pope who had chosen me as bishop - Pope John Paul II. I had the opportunity to meet him one on one. I have never thought I would have such an immense privilege. Throughout my priesthood, Pope John Paul II was my mentor, my inspiration. I call him the pope of my priesthood. From him I learnt how to be a priest. His teaching inspired me. His witness to Catholic truth formed my mind. I never imagined that I would one day meet this holy man who is one of the great popes of Catholic history. I never thought I would meet a saint.

After the meeting he presented me with a pectoral cross, this pectoral cross. On the reverse side of the cross is his coat of arms and along the cross bar are the words, Duc in Altum - "put out into the deep". These words come from the Gospel passage we have read today. They were his message to the Church as the new millennium commenced.

The words were significant for the Church. The Pope was now getting old and frail. He had sensed that the dawn of the third millennium of Christianity was a significant moment. He felt that the new millennium was a moment of opportunity for the Church. He had referred to the new millennium as a "new springtime" for the Church. He knew only too well the challenges that the Church faced, yet he had great hope for the Church in the new millennium. So he boldly called the Church to "put out into the deep". This was not a time to circle the wagons. It was not a time to retire into the relative safety of our own communities and way of life.

Rather it was a time to go forth with a new boldness of faith. The words have great significance in the setting from the Gospel today. The disciples had been fishing all night and had caught nothing. Their own efforts had not been successful. They were probably disheartened by their failure. Now the son of a carpenter was telling them to try again. They must have thought - what does he know? Who is he to tell us our business? We know that there are no fish.

Peter protested, but eventually relented. There was a huge catch of fish.

We know only too well the many challenges we face at this present time. We know that we have been labouring and have seen little fruit from our labours. We may be sensing that it is all in vain. We can sense that there are powers at work which are so much greater than us. We can feel powerless.

Yet the word comes to us - "put out into the deep". The Lord has plans and purposes. He had a plan for Isaiah when he called him in a rather dramatic way as he was praying in the temple. The Lord had a plan for Peter and his companions. The Lord is active in history. As the Prophet Isaiah would later comment, His ways are not our ways.

We tend look for immediate results to encourage us. We expect our efforts to produce fruit. We look for discernible signs that our efforts are not in vain. It can be the case that if we do not get the results we are hoping for then we give up. In all this we are judging according to human standards. God's plans have far greater depth and purpose. They span time and produce results that we could never have imagined.

I have just been speaking at a Divine Mercy conference. The story of St Faustina is a good example of the broad panorama of God's plans. In her case what he asked of her shows that God's plans are far more far reaching and fruitful than we can ever imagine. St Faustina, living in a convent, a woman of little education, having a minor role in the community was given a task which would have seen impossible for her. She was entrusted with a mission that she would have felt totally beyond her situation and capacity. All she could do was be faithful to what God had asked of her. And she was. And extraordinary things have resulted.

She had no idea of the extraordinary fruitfulness that would come of her fidelity. She had no idea that a son of Poland would be the instrument in which her hidden life and revelations would be presented to the world. It was Pope John Paul II who as a young man working in a quarry during the time of Nazi occupation visited the image of the Divine Mercy on his way home from the quarry. He prayed before the image.

The Lord's plan for the revelation to Sr Faustina was not just for the immediate circumstances of Poland - though images of the Divine Mercy and the chaplet were passed among the people and brought many comfort and encouragement. The revelations were to have far more reaching influence. They covered a whole century.

Now a current pope is convinced that mercy is the key to God's work in the world today. He has called for a Jubilee Year focused on the theme of mercy. The revelations of a flood of mercy pouring forth over the world are now being brought to centre stage. The Catholic world is being drawn towards Divine Mercy. The task given to St Faustina is being fulfilled in a most unexpected way.

There is a grace for the Church in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. We who have been caught up in the revelations of Divine Mercy are to be apostles of mercy. Those who have tasted mercy are to be the advocates of mercy.

Gaze upon the image of Divine Mercy pray that souls that long for God. Let your soul be flooded with mercy. Repeat over and over again with deep conviction, "Jesus I trust in you". Let your life be one of total surrender to the Lord, of complete trust in the Lord, of radical openness to his will for your life.

And say the chaplet imploring mercy for the whole world. Cry out for mercy, that the world will come under the redeeming grace of salvation.

This is the time of mercy - for the Church and for the whole world. This year is a moment when mercy is to be proclaimed as never before. God wants to pour forth his mercy upon us and upon the whole world. This is a moment for those who know this mercy to be instruments of this mercy flooding forth.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, February 7, 2016