Sunday, February 10, 2019

Do it again

During my years in undergraduate studies, I chose to be part of the University choir.  Every Monday evening, we would practice for three hours, and once or twice a year, we would put on a concert for other students and residents in the local city.  I remember the first night that I arrived for practice.  They handed me the music and sat me in the tenor section.  The conductor pointed at the pianist who played a chord and we were off.  There was no time spent teaching us the parts: that was our own responsibility.  Inevitably, we would sing a bit and then we would be stopped.  The conductor would point out something that needed to be done differently and then he would say: Now, let’s start again ... and we would return to the point from which we had started.  I don’t remember how many times we repeated the music, but I know that at some points, we grew exasperated when he asked us to repeat the musical phrase yet again ... until we had almost memorized the music.

I have often wondered whether Simon felt exasperated when Jesus said to him: Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch (Lk 5:4).  Simon, James and John were fishermen.  They had worked all night long, but they had caught nothing (cf Lk 5:5), yet when Jesus asked them to let down their nets yet again, they agreed, and the outcome was remarkable: they caught so much fish that their nets were beginning to break (Lk 5:6).

Like the conductor standing in front of that choir, Jesus asks us to practice our lines.  The specific tasks he asks us to perform are not difficult in and of themselves, but the fact that he asks us to repeat the same tasks, even if we don’t perceive any effect, can leave us frustrated.  Some of us pray the same words day after day, year after year and we don’t see anything change.  Some of us speak kindly to others and still it seems that we are ignored ... and how many times have we messed something up and said sorry, then tried to change and we end up messing up again?  The good thing is that no matter how many times we mess up, our God is always willing to give us another chance.

Jesus never asks us to do something that we cannot do, but he will often ask us to practice virtue over and over, no matter how many times we mess up ... until we get it right.  When Simon Peter saw the miraculous catch of fish, he fell down at Jesus’ knees and said, Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man (Lk 5:8).   Like Simon, and like Isaiah, when we witness the great goodness of our God, we too can sometimes respond by saying: Woe is me (Is 6:5) or Go away from me Lord because we are made aware of our own unworthiness, yet God does not judge our unworthiness; God loves us for who we are.

It was because of God’s love for his people that Christ died for our sins ... that he was buried, and that we was raised on the third day ... (1 Cor 15:3-4).  What we are called to do every day is to practice following in his footsteps.  We must continue to pray day after day, even if we don’t see the results right away; we must continue to speak kindly to others, even if they might ignore us; and every time we fall down, we must get up again, say sorry, dust ourselves off and try again.  Eventually, we’ll get it right.

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