My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
The more you live and the more you learn, the more you’ll discover that – as you acquire a discerning mind, and a discerning mindset – you’ll discover that you will learn both by what is said and by what is not said.
By those things which are said, which are spelled out, we gain the knowledge of what is said, of what is spelled out. That’s very simple. At the same time, by what is not said, we can learn the limits of our knowledge – that some things are simply not known and can’t be said. Or we learn the limits of propriety – that some things simply should not be said, at least not in every circumstance. And sometimes, there are just some things which were not recorded, words which were said but which have not come down to us. Words which were spoken, but which have been lost to history.
Interestingly enough, we find such words, now lost to history, in the middle of the Gospel reading today, from the Gospel of Saint Luke, a man well known for otherwise including details in his Gospel. I think you’ll see, though, that there’s a good lesson for all of us to learn from those lost words.
In the Gospel, we join our Lord, standing by the lake of Genesareth. And the Lord goes into one of the ships that was there at the shore, a ship belonging to St. Peter, and our Lord instructs St. Peter to draw the ship out into the water just a little. And there our Lord sits on the ship, and begins to teach the multitudes of people on the shore from out of the boat, our Lord speaking to them from over the water.
And when our Lord had finished speaking to the people, He – now quite famously – He instructs Saint Peter to put out the nets of the boat to take up a draught of fishes from the lake. And Saint Peter responds, not too enthusiastically we might imagine, that he and the others had laboured all night without catching anything. But, at the word of the Lord, he will cast out the nets.
Then, as the Gospel tells us, “when they had done this, they enclosed a very great multitude of fishes, and their net broke. And they beckoned to their partners that were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they were almost sinking.”
“Which when Simon Peter saw, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying: Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was wholly astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken. And so were also James and John the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. And Jesus saith to Simon: Fear not: from henceforth thou shalt catch men.”
A salutary instruction, showing us the fruitfulness of working with the blessing and according to the will of God. These men had worked all the previous night, and had taken in nothing. All night and no fish. The fishermen would have been tired, perhaps a bit frustrated. It happens to us all, whatever our work in this world may be.
But at the word of the Lord, Saint Peter had the nets cast out again. Admittedly, he did so after making it quite clear that they had already spent an entire night of fishing and taking in nothing. That’s fair enough. But still, he fulfilled the desire of the Lord, and cast out the nets, and the rest is, as they say, history. A miraculous, prodigious draught of fishes.
What is not recorded in history, however, is what our Lord said to the multitudes. Remember? Recall that this entire scene was set by our Lord requesting to be taken out from shore just a little bit, so that He could address and teach the multitudes on the shore. And so He did. But not a word of what He said is recorded in the Gospel. The Gospel simply says: “[S]itting He taught the multitudes out of the ship.” And that is all.
Surely our Lord had sublime truths to preach. Surely nothing else could even compare with the words of instruction which came forth from the lips of Him Who is the Word. And yet… not even a word of that instruction is recounted for us. Saint Luke, so often the Evangelist to recount what the various persons mentioned in his Gospel had to say, here says nothing other than that our Lord did, in fact, teach. What He said… Only those who were there that day know what our Lord had to say. And this is as it should be. For this is as our Lord has willed it to be.
See, our Lord continues to teach all of those who would follow Him in a similar manner. We are often instructed by the Lord privately, with lessons tailored to our own needs, our own necessities, assisting us to overcome our own passions, our own sufferings. These are not lessons to be recounted, written down. They are not revelations to the world.
Rather, these are lessons of the heart which should lead us to the other lesson of the Gospel today: to put out the nets, even if we’ve laboured all night.
Private instruction in grace, the planting of the seed of sanctifying grace in the heart, comes forth publicly in the works of mercy, the casting out of the nets of the ships which are the Church so that all may be brought up and through the waters of regeneration into the presence of the Lord. Our own previous failures, like a night in which not a single fish was caught, mean nothing in the presence of the blessing, the will, and the commission of God Himself, who instructs us.
So let us learn today from that instruction, both in what was said and in what was not said. For the words you hear me speak today will certainly be lost to history, just like the words of our Lord from the ship. But the works of mercy that we do, these will not be lost, like the draught of fishes, these works of mercy will not be forgotten. And finally let us, in doing these works, also imitate the Apostles, as the Gospel today concludes, saying: “Having brought their ships to land, leaving all things, they followed Him.” Let us follow Him, too.