As we always say, “Words mean something,” and when we use words, we need to make certain that the words we use explain clearly what we’re trying to say—in speech or in writing.
Faith. If we go to Webster to see what the word means, we learn the following:
Faith: (n) 1a) allegiance to duty or person, loyalty, “lost faith” in someone; 1b) fidelity to promises, “acting in good faith”; 2a) belief and trust in God; 2b) firm belief in something for which there is no proof; 3) something believed with especially strong conviction.
In terms of Webster, it takes him (them) to #2 to find God in the definition.
But for me, the best one is 2b). Those of us who regularly come to church define ourselves as “faithful.” That doesn’t mean our attendance is regular—it should be, but that’s not the major point. Majorly, faithful means we embrace the teachings of the Church with our whole heart. As the Lord said in last week’s Gospel, in answering the lawyer’s question about “the greatest commandment,” Jesus said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is a statement of immersive love. Every part of our being is called to engage this love, both physical and spiritual. This kind of faith is unwavering. We’ll get back to that in a moment.
In today’s Gospel, we find the Lord giving St. Peter a kind of ‘test of faith’. Jesus says to Peter, Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch. It seems like a simple request. But the life of one who fishes for a living is difficult. Boats and sails and nets need mending and constant attention. There are dangers in the waters. And it is physically draining.
Still, Jesus give Peter an ‘invitation’ to go where He is leading. As always, Jesus does not coerce. He asks. What is St. Peter’s response to the invitation?
We’ve worked hard all night and caught nothing… It is a statement of fact which the Lord already knew, but Peter felt the need to re-state. Peter continues—nevertheless, at Your word I will let down the net. In other words, if there are no fish this time, this is all on You, Lord!
This is not exactly a concrete expression of the deepest, unwavering faith!
But in this Gospel reading we find that the Lord is not going to require that demonstration of unwavering faith. He intends to provide that which will engender such faith where it was not already. The catch of fish is so great that their nets were breaking from the weight of the fish. And because of this extraordinary event, what kind of faith does Peter begin to demonstrate? He falls at the feet of Jesus. He does not express confusion. He does not speak of the Lord’s authority over nature.
No, Peter goes to his sins! Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man! It is not a rejection like that which came from the people of Gadara when the Lord healed the demoniac. Rather, it is a recognition that God in His holiness is incompatible with man and his sins. It is a shout of repentance.
When is the last time that I demonstrated even the imperfect faith of Peter, let alone the robust repentance that comes from observing God’s grace poured out on His creation? When have I shown that unwavering faith that the love of God for me proves Him deserving of from me?
Let me seek to show such faith, beginning now! As our own beloved St. Herman said, From this hour, from this minute, let us love God above all else, and seek to do His holy will.