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Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Simple Fishermen

Today, we celebrate yet another Catholic feast day.  Has it ever occur to you that the Catholic faith can sometimes be perceived as one heck of a complicated mystery?

So many special days in the liturgical calendar, prayers to memorize, liturgical “rules”, creeds, litanies, saints feast days, encyclicals, sacraments and not forgetting the almost 3,000 paragraphs in the Catechism of the Catholic Church!

Nevertheless, the Catholic Christian faith is never meant to be perceived as complicated or burdensome.  After all, the very first disciples were mere fishermen!  Speaking of this, I recalled an email forwarded to me sometime back, on the simple life of a fisherman.  Let me just quote it here for the benefit of all…this is how the story goes...

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican fishing village and a city tourist complimented the local poor fishermen on the quality of their fishes and asked how long it took him to catch them each day.

“Not very long.” the fishermen answered in unison.  The tourist replied, “Why didn't you stay out there longer and catch more.”

The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families for the day.

“But what about tomorrow, the day after, what then do you do with the rest of your precious time today?”

“Well, very simple…we sleep late, fish a little, play with our children and take siestas with our wives.  In the evenings, we go into the village to see our friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs.  We simply live and have a full life.  Most important of all, we thank God for His blessings for us today.  We acknowledge His presence in our lives.”The tourist seem rather confused and immediately interrupted...

“You guys are lost!  You waste so much time idling away.  Lucky for you, I have an MBA from Harvard, an analytical mind and I can surely help you out of this predicament!  First, you should start by fishing a little longer each day to be more productive.  You can then sell the extra fishes you catch at the market.  With the extra revenue, you can then buy an even bigger boat.”

The poor fishermen looked blankly one another and at the tourist...they simply questioned, “And after all these, what then?…”

The Harvard tourist continued, “With the extra money that the larger boat will bring, you can then buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Your lives will be redefined for the better!  Strategically speaking, instead of selling your fishes to a middle man, you should negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own fishery plant.  You can then leave this little village and move on to Mexico City, big cities like Los Angeles or even New York City…for that matter, in fact, anywhere around the world!  You will have the luxury of more freedom, more choices and lots more wealth!  From these bigger cities you can manage and direct your huge new business empire.”The fishermen humbly asked the man, “How much time would all these take?”

“Fifteen, twenty, perhaps twenty-five years…depending on how much effort you are willing to invest for the betterment of your life and that of your families.” replied the tourist.

“And by the way, sir, what then after that?” the simple folks replied.

“What after that?  Well my dear friends, that is when it gets even more interesting…” answered the tourist-consultant, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can even start buying and selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions?  Really?  And what more after that?" asked these fishermen.

“After that you will be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

Now, these simple fishermen were even more confused and said to the tourist, “With all due respect sir, but is not that what we are exactly doing right now?  So what is the point wasting fifteen, twenty or twenty-five years? Why wait?” asked the Mexicans.

Like this simple fishermen story, the Catholic Christian faith can sometimes be perceived as a waste of time, tedious, strict and mysterious - indeed a “mystery” to a lot of people.  But, it is precisely because it is a “mystery” that simple and mortal pilgrims like us cannot expect to figure these out by mere intellectual means alone; the finite human mind.

The mysteries of our faith can only be grasped through a personal encounter with Jesus, by the grace and mercy of God…as with a sister, a brother or even a friend – the heart.

Today, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Holy Eucharist…the mystery of the Most Holy Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.   Today also happens to be the anniversary of the institution of the priesthood…a simple Happy Birthday goes out to all Priests!

Pope Benedict XVI in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas, simply wrote that… “Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

Within the reflections on the new translation of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite of the Mass, we come to the heart of the Eucharist, the consecration of the bread and wine, where the priest simply say: “This is my body, which will be given up for you” and subsequently “This is the chalice of my blood, the new and everlasting covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. …The mystery of faith.”

There are many, many mysteries in life and of being human…and no matter how much our finite human intelligence (if one ever wants to call it) attempt to reason…these simply remains a mystery, simply to be embraced…similar to the uncontrolled heartbeat, the Source that sustains us each day, our breath that gives life, the conceived child…including many other simple miracles of life!

Within this exclusive Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Catholics possess the gift of the real presence and personal encounter with the Lord, Jesus Christ…an extremely deep personal encounter…a mystery that only the faithful can grasp; poor or rich, intelligent or not-so-clever…but nevertheless, a concrete reality of our rich faith!

Yes, our Catholic faith is that simple…just as falling in love is generally simple…but only if we have simple hearts to know where we stand before God…only if we choose to open our hearts to Him…only if we want to make this journey home and have this relationship with Him.

Corpus Christi…the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ…veneration of the Blessed Sacrament…the Sacred Host…the real presence of Jesus Christ gifted to the Catholic Church…like the simple and humble fishermen…let us simply believe and follow Him!

“…blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.” (John 20:29, Douay Rheims)

“…behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:20, Douay Rheims)


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