Have you ever asked yourself what is your life purpose? Why are you living this life as the person you are, with the parents and family you have, in the country you reside in and living the faith you have? Have you ever asked yourself what is your role in God’s plan for your life and how are you going to fulfill it? And if you do accept the idea that God has a specific life purpose for you, have you ever wondered what the next step is he is calling you into?
I can only imagine that the disciples asked themselves similar questions after the Resurrection. Their questions of what next, amidst their intense grief over the loss of their friend Jesus, must have consumed their hearts and minds. While we can only guess that they were numb with grief over the loss of Jesus, they had to move forward with their lives. It seems that almost unconsciously, as is common immediately after the loss of a loved one, Peter took to his boat and dropped his nets as he tried to return to a life he knew. His band of disciples followed him.
How many times do we, perhaps like Peter, unconsciously run on auto-pilot when we don’t know what to do, when we are overcome with grief or pain? How many times have we sought a sense of normalcy in an attempt to avoid heartbreak and pain? How many times have we dropped our nets in such instances only to yield an empty bounty? How many times have we exerted physical and emotional energy only to yield empty nets? I remember a time when I did this very thing.
For six years I owned and operated a holistic wellness center, Joy of Raphael. I opened the doors with big dreams of healing God’s children, and my husband so generously financed the entire start-up cost out of his hard-earned dollars. I created a beautiful space for healing and I deeply desired to do the will of God. However, running the practice and being solely responsible for holding everything together – the finances, the employees, the patients, and not to mention my heartfelt desire to be with my children, became too much for me to cope with. My health began to quickly deteriorate and I began to experience anxiety and depression. I was falling apart inside, falsely believing I had to carry this alone. I kept showing up day after day, month after month, and year after year at Joy of Raphael allowing myself to be further immersed in the pain. Looking back I can see how I kept turning to God with a desperate pleading for help; however, I can also see that I failed to really listen to our Lord. I kept dropping my nets in the hopes of a fruitful catch without being told by our Lord to do so. My pain blinded me and I, perhaps like Peter, couldn’t see our Lord even though he was on the shore of the tumultuous waters of my life. Then something happened, something miraculous as a result of a Saint Therese of Lisieux Novena. God rescued me and I was able to see him on the shore, albeit through a fog. I became free of Joy of Raphael as I let it go, I was able to close the doors and surrender all control to our Lord. I became free of my dark night of the soul.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you have tried and failed. Maybe you have suffered. Maybe you have sought to do the will of God and you have dropped your nets before Jesus told you to. Maybe your grief or pain have blinded you to the Lord. Maybe you have questioned your next step in God’s life purpose for your life? Today’s Gospel beautifully reveals to us the truth. The truth is that Jesus is always there, he is forever on the shore of our life and he will tell us when to drop our nets. He will feed us with what we need to fulfill our life purpose.
An important key appears to be the company we keep. We are called to surround ourselves with those who also seek and love the Lord. Even Peter, “the rock” who was leading this band of disciples, didn’t recognize it was Jesus who was instructing him from the shore. Peter needed John’s eyes, the one “whom Jesus loved”, before he actually saw that is was Jesus who had instructed him to facilitate such a miraculous catch. Then of course it gets better. The excitement of the disciples is palpable. Peter “jumped into the sea” and rushed onward towards Jesus. The others delivered the bounty to the shore, dragging the very full and unbroken nets behind them. Then Jesus, as he does, serves his beloved followers. An already prepared breakfast for the disciples awaits and they join together at Jesus’ invitation. Jesus knew they would be in need of nourishment after such an ordeal and he fed them immediately.
Jesus was there the entire time with his disciples. He witness the futility, and subsequent frustration, as they cast their empty nets into the waters throughout the night. He witnessed their obedience as they cast their nets one more time and he witnessed their joy as they celebrated the bounty. He saw John’s face illuminate upon recognizing his Lord on the shore. He witnessed Peter’s joy as he leapt in the water. And he saw their joy at the breakfast feast as they dinned together one more time.
Jesus will do the same for us. He is there with us, every step of the way. Our lives matter, he has a divine life purpose for each of us, all we need to do is listen to him. He is waiting for us on the shore – even when we don’t recognize him. He knows that sometimes the waters are challenging and exhausting. He wants us to drop our nets at his directive anyway. He wants us to trust him so that we can capture the bounty he has in store for us. Our nets, our unique divine gifts, will be divinely strengthened and fortified as we fish for him. They will not break. And Jesus alone will nourish us when we are in need. Jesus knows our needs; our physical, emotional and spiritual needs and he is eternally providing “breakfast” for us at the beginning of every day, after every long night, so that we can move forward sustained as we serve one another.
“As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace”
– 1 Peter 4:10
Once fortified and strengthened we can become strong like Peter. He so boldly proclaimed Jesus Christ in today’s reading. His firm words to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees were not the words of a man dropping his nets in search of fish on his own. No, these words, were spoken to capture a miraculous catch, his nets were strengthened as he proclaimed the truth. The Holy Spirit filled Peter, and his words must have resounded throughout all the region – Jesus “is the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”
Now I will share with you a bit more of my story. After “seeing” Jesus on the shore of my life I began to really hear him, and I began to drop my nets at his directive. My life, and that of my family, has experienced the beauty of his bounty as a result. While receiving the continued nourishment of his breakfast, I continue to follow his direction. He is still calling me to be a healer, to minister to those suffering from brokenheartness in their physical, emotional and spiritual hearts. However, he never called me to run Joy of Raphael, that was my idea. As he has called me to reach the brokenhearted he has led me to create The LIVE Method – something I could never have done while I was running a large holistic practice. The most beautiful piece in all of this is the fact he calls me into continual transformation as I grow closer to him. Every step allows me to more fully know who I am and my divine life purpose.
Jesus has been calling me to write a book for some time now, a book that shares with others the truth of the joy he has for his children while providing a divinely inspired roadmap. This calling also requires that I create the space in my life where I can listen to him. A space where I can pull everything together and put it in a book format for others to read. Given this, I will need to step back a little on my weekly reflections on acatholic.org in April in order to create the time needed to write this book. I’ll still be here; however, I’ll offer reflections twice a month instead of weekly (the 2nd and the 4th Friday of every month). Also, in my reflections I’ll share with our readers the inspiration I receive as this book comes into being. Hopefully others will find comfort in the words. I humbly ask for your prayers. Please pray that I clearly see Jesus at the shore of my life and follow his directions for this book – his book. I want nothing more than to cast my nets at his will and for his glory. I hope and pray that all of you find your divine purpose as you listen to Jesus at the shore of your lives as well.
I love you Jesus!
Today’s Readings: Acts 4:1-12; Psalm 118; John 21:1-14