Posted by: mmreflections | September 15, 2011

Catching My First Fish! September 2011

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”  (Matthew 18:1-5)

Our God, the Holy One, is full of surprises!  These delights unfold quite unexpectedly in ways we had never imagined.  Such an event occurred earlier for me this month when I accepted the invitation of three of my nephews and their wives to join them for an extended weekend up north at a vacation home on a beautiful lake in central Wisconsin.  The invitation came with a clear understanding that I was not being asked to do any work but to just come and relax with them.  The idea that these younger family members just wanted this old uncle to be in their company was a blessing.  From the moment we gathered together, I experienced a lightness of being.  I no longer saw myself as a much older man.  In fact, many of the ordinary aches and pains seemed to have disappeared.  Unable to use my cell phone in this geographic area, no longer preoccupied with television news reports and newspapers, I was free to relax and enjoy the pristine, secluded, peaceful, awesome beauty of the Creator’s handiwork.  I was able to enjoy the love and company of my nephews and their wives.  I seemed to have gone back to my boyhood days when I wandered about the hillsides near where I grew up.  It seemed I was a little child again enjoying the gifts of the One who loved me unconditionally.

Often during my adult years I wondered what it would have been like to have had my Dad around when I was a little boy growing up.  I was only two years old when he died.  Would he have taught me how to play ball?  Would he have taken me fishing?  Would he have ever told me how proud he was of me?  Not having an answer to these questions often left me feeling sad.  During these recent days at the lake, it seemed like all these questions were answered by my nephews and their wives.  I felt like a little boy again when one of my nephews put a fishing rod into my hands, showed me how to grip the rod, cast the line and bring in a fish.  Another nephew showed me how to use a popper and using fish worms for bait, while another taught me how to use different fishing lures.  No one had ever taught me how to fish before this moment.  Here I was a 77 year old man really fishing for the first time.  Then I caught my first fish, not a very big one but it was an exciting moment.  Cheers went up!  I could not have felt greater delight at that moment as I held up the first fish I ever  caught.  Then I released him back into the water as everyone else was doing.   We were fishing for the sport of it only.  Later when out on one of the boats I was able to real in a bigger one which was even more exciting. In the hours and days that followed many of my other questions would have been realized.  I had a sense of what it would have been like!  These days turned out to be one of the more special gifts ever coming my way.

During the past few months I have found myself reflecting on the words of Jesus, “Unless you become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Observing little children at play helps me to understand why Jesus would have taught this lesson to his disciples.  There are so many concerns bombarding our society today.  Terror, prejudice, wars, economy, politics, unemployment, health issues seem to be creating an overwhelming atmosphere of fear in the lives of so many.  Shadow sides of our churches, government and other institutions cause us great discomfort. We can easily become saturated with these issues compounded by our own failures, mistakes and personal concerns.  It is easy to be overcome by all this.  It might be wise to take a break from all these concerns and just observe little children around us.

Listen to and observe these little ones squealing with delight at the tiniest situation or incident.  One little child fearlessly scooping up a little beetle creeping along the ground, another little child with arms around a friend who has fallen and is crying, a little boy whooping and screaming as he comes down a slide, two little ones making up soon after an argument, a child kneeling in prayer before climbing into bed, other children dancing at the first sound of music, little ones eating ice cream with much of it all over their faces, others playing in a mud puddle, all trusting in the unconditional love of their fathers and mothers.  For the little children all is well and all will be well.

What happens to us as we leave these childhood days behind? What prompts judgments, prejudice, resentments, mistrust, hatred, fear, self-loathing, inability to forgive or to receive forgiveness?  It seems we forget that we are each forever loved unconditionally by the Holy One, the Creator of the universe who called us forth out of nothingness into being even before we were conceived in our mother’s wound.  Jesus reminds us that we are all forever little children of God who by the power of the Holy Spirit can call God, “Abba” which in the language Jesus would have spoken means, “Daddy”.  Not one of us is without our “Daddy” no matter where the paths of our lives have taken us.  We may have messed up terribly, making many mistakes, failing to live as the persons we were created to be, masking our faces so that others would not see who we really are, trying harder and harder to be perfect that we might earn the love for which we so long.  In the midst of all this darkness, there is the gentle voice of Jesus reminding us we are loved and have a purpose for being here on this earth.  “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

Since it is so easy to forget how much we are loved by our Abba, our Daddy, our God, we all need to be reminded of this truth again and again by the people in our lives.  We also need to remember that we are all called to remind those around of this important truth.  We do not have to preach to our friends and families, we need to live  out this truth in our lives as we reach out to one and other in love.  There are many around us who appear afraid, angry and troubled.  They do not need our judgments and criticisms; they need our love.  God is love and wherever there is love, there is God.  A strange thing happens whenever we are loved unconditionally by another person; we experience once again childlike moments of innocence and joy.  We find ourselves free once again to love others without any strings attached.  We find ourselves in the kingdom of heaven here and now.

This is the experience I had this month as I fished, boated on the lake, laughed, enjoyed food without concern about calories, loved and allowed myself to be loved, enjoyed all of God’s creation and the company of family.   I had these childlike moments that I had been missing for a long time.  When Jesus called his disciples to become as the child who stood before them, the world around them was much like our own with much of the same shadows and problems we are encountering. It was a reminder for me that no matter what is happening in the world around us, all is still well and all will be well.  We are loved.  Let’s go fishing!

Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.  Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.  (Cfr. 1John:3:18; 4:7-12)

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Responses

  1. Dear Father Michael,
    Thank you for reminding me of the love of our Abba. The unconditional love of our God is one of the central themes of your postings and sermons — it’s a message I very much enjoy hearing.
    God bless you for sharing this lesson,
    Michael

  2. Dear Father Mike,
    What another beautiful reflection! Your words are always so uplifting; it’s as though the troubles of the day are blown away and the fresh air has entered the house.(Do you like my figurative language??)
    Thank you for taking the time and giving us reason to smile yet again.
    God bless you and have a beautiful day. Andrea


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