St. Gregory the Great
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, O
St. Dominic Priory, NOLA
You won't catch a fish big enough to brag about in a pond. A fish worthy of boasting about has to be caught in deeper water. But deeper water comes with a number of hazards – bigger waves, bigger storms, better chance of getting lost, and less chance of getting rescued. Those are the chances you take to enter the world of Big Fish Boasting! What if we take Jesus to be talking about preaching instead of fishing? What does it mean then to “go out into the deep”? Well, if we think of preaching as a pond-side afternoon of dropping a hook and taking a nap – as a hobby, or something to do when we feel like doing nothing –, then “going out into the deep” has to be that sort of preaching that demands planning, preparation, research; a willingness to challenge and be challenged; a deeply seeded desire for adventure; and an openness to the possibility of both getting lost and catching your White Whale. Preaching in the deep like fishing in the deep not only increases the odds of catching more and bigger fish, it also intensifies the thrill of the chase and hones the preacher's skills.
That's the good stuff. What about the dangers of preaching in the deep? Well, you will ride bigger waves – higher highs and lower lows; more turbulence, opposition. You will confront bigger storms – louder noise, frightening headwinds; risk lightening strikes and the threat of going overboard. The chances of getting lost are greater the further out you go, the further away you travel from a safe port, a safe pulpit. And all these combine to make it harder and harder for you to be found and rescued from your apparent folly. Even so, to fill your boat to the point of sinking must be worth the risk. It's what we signed for. As Dominican preachers we didn't sign up to be amateur fishermen napping the afternoon away by the side of a pond. We signed up as pros to compete in the international Deep Water Championship. When the Lord says, “Go out into the deep,” we know he means for us to bring everything we have and everything we are to the sport and ready ourselves for whatever hazards we encounter and whatever rewards we reap. All the fish – big and small – belong to him. So do the fishermen. So, as we prepare for our next trip out, hear him one more time, “Do not be afraid.”
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