Peoria, Tazewell, And Woodford: Here, There & Everywhere

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time by Ted Wolgamot,Psy.D


“When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” Lk. 5:11


“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Though variously attributed, John Lennon sang these words in the song “Beautiful Boy.”

Our gospel reading today is a perfect example of the truth of this comment.

The disciples did not receive their calling from Jesus while they were in a designated sacred space like the synagogue, or even while they were in prayer or contemplation in their homes. Their call did not come while they were quietly listening for it but, rather, at the end of a long, sweaty, fruitless work day, when they were discouraged and ready to pack it in.

Notice, too, that they were not doing anything grand or holy. They were just doing what they did at the end of every work day: washing their nets. It was at that very moment, though, that everything changed for them.

Here’s what happened:

Along came another itinerant preacher and healer. In truth, he was probably initially a nuisance after a long night of hard labor. But somehow they found the inner strength to show respect to this teacher and dutifully shoved the boats back into the water – the last thing they most likely wanted to do at that moment – when he asked them to “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Dog-tired, they probably told him that this was not a good spot for fishing, that they’d already tried that place and found it useless. But, certain that nothing good was going to happen at that location in the lake, they nevertheless somehow trusted this man enough to do as he said.

Then, in the midst of exhaustion and pessimism, something amazing happened: a surplus of nourishment came forth in the midst of seemingly barren waters. Such an excess, in fact, that “they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.” They then had to signal “to their partners in the other boat to come to help them,” and “filled both boats” to the point that “the boats were in danger of sinking.”

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”


This is what happened to Simon, James, and John.

When they least expected it, abundance, extravagance – more than they could handle.

Then Jesus used this moment to call these men to a new vocation, a new career: “catching” people.

At first, Peter is so awestruck by God’s superabundance he tries to send Jesus away: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus calms him with these soothing words – words repeated some 365 times throughout Scripture: “Do not be afraid.”

Like the disciples in this story, our vocation, our calling comes to us in the midst of everyday life and work.

God is impatient. God is not willing to wait for the times when everything is still and settled to call us. God finds us wherever we are and in the midst of whatever we are doing, and shows us something that beckons us – often with the materials of the everyday work we are engrossed in. God uses the details of our particular time and place to catch our attention and throw us a new challenge.

Then, just like the first disciples, what happens to us is: we get surprised by God.

We think we are just humming along minding our own business, doing what we always do, and suddenly we’re stopped by something that causes us to wonder: what in my life would need to change in order to be the new person God is calling me to be?

The problem for most of us is that this sounds good, but it’s not always as obvious as Luke makes it out to be in this powerful story. How do we actually know when God is summoning us toward a new future, a new form of service?

No messenger comes up to us and causes a miraculous experience. Nothing that clear and overwhelming usually happens in our lives. So, how do we know what God wants of us?

The key to answering that question lies in the power of two virtues: trust and risk.

Like the disciples in today’s story, we have to be open to the voice of God in a stranger from whom we might prefer to turn away, or in a friend who provokes us with a word we did not expect or want to hear. God may come to us by way of an inner voice we would prefer not to acknowledge, or a part of ourselves that we have silenced.

The key is that we have to pay attention, to be alert to the surprising in our life. Perhaps just when we are most prone to wonder, “Is this all there is?” or “What do I do now to get out of this rut?” Jesus comes and drops something messy into the midst of our too-small lives. The surprising “catch” becomes nourishment, if we let it. Just like it did for the disciples.

Living into our vocations may well bring hardship, risks, even suffering, as Peter certainly came to know, but there is also a kind of suffering and “quiet desperation” that also comes with keeping our lives small.

We will know that we are on the right path, as the disciples did, if we can sense that the new life of service summoning us, despite the risks, is one that offers sustenance and joy.

Who are the people God is giving us to “fish,” and what is the glorious “catch” that awaits us if we hear and act upon God’s unexpected, holy invitation?

We don’t know the precise answer to such questions, but we do know that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

If we open ourselves up to trust in the Lord and to take the risk that we are forever safe in the palm of his hand, the abundance of today’s Gospel is there for the taking.


“When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.” Lk. 5:11


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This entry was posted on January 29, 2016 by in Uncategorized.
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