Wherever Our Boats May Take Us


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time | February 10, 2019

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

Growing up in grade school, we used to sign a song at the close of every mass.

Grade by grade, the music teacher would ask:  

8th grade, 8th grade, will you come and  follow me?  
Will you come and follow me now?  
Will you come and be an apostle of mine?
Will you come and follow me now?

Then we would answer, shouting at the top of our lungs:

Yes, Lord, yes!  
Yes, Lord, yes! 
Yes Lord, I will come and follow you
Follow you wherever you go!

Catchy, isn’t it?

This song defined my childhood.  And every time I sang it, it seemed so straightforward.  Yes, Lord. I will follow you. Wherever you go.

I had no idea where I would be going or what I would need to do when I got there.  I didn’t think that far ahead. I just sang my heart out, assuming that one day I would figure it all out.

And as the years went by, a part of that childhood simplicity stayed with me.

Like the prophet Isaiah, I found myself enthusiastically waving my hands going, “Pick me, Lord!  Here I am! Choose me!”

You want me to become an Oblate?  Okay!! You want me to be a priest and an educator? Absolutely!!

Let’s sign the papers and here we go.  I still may not have an idea of where I am going or what I may need to do when I get there, but I’ll figure it out.

It just all seemed so straightforward.  So clear.

I still remember my first vows as if they were yesterday.  Pledging my life to this religious family in the service of God and the Church.

Pledging to follow him wherever he goes.

But today, years after heeding that call, years after saying that yes, all I can say is that I feel like my life is this Gospel on repeat.

Because let’s be real, so much of this life is casting nets that come back empty.

All the back-breaking effort you put into dumping those nets over the side, hauling them back in and realizing that there is nothing there.  

Days in which you are just trying to keep the boat afloat, much less worry about the nets.

Days in which everyone else seems to be hauling in the catch and yours is just empty and you wonder what you’re doing wrong.

Days when you sit there and work with a kid and you are confident they understand what they need to do.  And the next thing you know, they have been caught by the disciplinarian again for smoking a juul in the bathroom.

Days when you promise yourself, I am going to be patient today.  I am going to treat them with compassion. And by 10 AM, you’ve snapped at your toddler, told off your spouse and cursed out the driver who can’t seem to understand the concept of the passing lane.

Days when you put in the extra hours, perfect the report and walk into the meeting, only to be told that circumstances have changed and you need to go back and re-run the numbers.

Days when you are sitting in class, trying to pay attention, studying for this test.  And you still fail. Badly. As if you hadn’t even tried.

Days when you go, I am going to make the effort to put myself out there.  To ask her out. To say hello. To try something new. And all you get is scorn, derisive laughter, and an embarrassing failure.

What happened to that childlike simplicity?  What happened to the exuberant declarations of “Here I am, Lord”?  It seems like it all gets buried underneath all the empty nets.

And it is in that moment, as we sit in that boat with our empty nets that Christ goes. Toss them back overboard. And a part of us is going, you’ve lost your mind. I’m exhausted.  I’m frustrated. I’m done.

But then you see Peter stand up, wearily grab the nets and toss them overboard.  And as he does so, you can almost hear the refrains of the song whispering across the water.  Yes, Lord. I will come and follow you. Follow you wherever you go. No longer shouted in joy.  No longer triumphantly proclaimed. But sung nonetheless. Like a spiritual that refuses to be silenced.  Filling our hearts and rekindling our souls.

And in his example, we have our own.

Do we heed the call that continues to claim each of us?  The call to follow him. To say yes to wherever our boats may take us.

Yes Lord.  I will come and follow you.  Follow you wherever you go.

May God be Praised.

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