Fr. Tamas Forrai, SJ, Guest Priest,
Former Jesuit Hungarian Provinicial
Friday of Easter Week
I don’t know whether you like fishing or not. I dislike it. I have to say that it is boring. I did it once only. I was not catching anything but the mosquitoes have eaten me up.
Fishing is the context of today’s Gospel which we meditate on. After three years of the special “School for the Lord’s service” – as the Rule says – Peter was sent back to Galilee to restart something new. After five weeks in Genesee I am leaving and being sent back to my context. Ignatius calls it as the “School of Love”. Knowing, loving and following Jesus more, it is the Ignatian dynamic of our vocation.
The engine of this school is the experience that the Lord is risen! Indeed. (In Hungary after Easter we greet each other: Jesus is risen! and some would answer: Indeed, Jesus is risen! Especially in the Communist period using this phrase was a sign that you belong to a committed Christian community… it was our secret code.
Meditating on this gospel text I feel that Peter is yet not using this small word ‘Indeed’. He returned to Galilee. He is fishing every day. This is his life. But he is inviting his friends. And I am sure that he is waiting, consciously waiting. You know: fishing is not like the bakery where you can plan, or farming, foresting what you can almost plan. Fishing is waiting. The fisherman needs to be there at the appropriate time at the appropriate place. Catching is a gift.
As I am sitting in the choir I see fore me the senior brothers. I see them slowly entering the church for every prayer day by day, surely year by year. Keeping fishing or praying if you wish. It is empowering to me to see how they persist in coming each day. And I am sure that they – as all of us – sometimes do not catch anything. But for that you need this kind of stability, patience, and restarting your decision every day. You should trust the strange man on the shore who is crying to you that you should “cast the net over the right side”. And some other times you catch hundred fifty three fishes at once so that you are “not able to pull it out”. And please invite the others: “I am going to fishing.” You will need them. And when they are responding that “we also will come with you” then the community is built already.
During this weeks I did not learned well enough when to stand or sit down during the prayer. I am not sure where to put the washed plates in the kitchen. And many other things. But I have learned the importance of keeping silence and solitude. (I might not get up at 2 A.M from tomorrow, but I hope that I can hear the voice of Jesus after the dawn and we can breakfast together on the shore later on as well.)
You know, this year – preparing my sabbatical and retreat, beyond many other things – what I was wishing for myself was to get a deeper experience of the reality of the empty silence at Good Friday and Saturday. And I needed the earthquake to wake me up as well! We are blessed to be invited to recall this experience every year since we can be accustomed to it easily. Even our nice liturgy, the rhythm of the day and the year could make us believe that the Easter’ experience is the normal. It works always as usual. But it is not! (It might be even worse if we believe that our own efforts can achieve what is missing from the depth.)
“What are we to do, my brothers?” – asking the Jews. “Come and see the works of God”, says the Psalm 66. Peter was invited to return to Galilee, to the place of his call, of his marvelous first meetings with Jesus. The Psalms are inviting us to return to muse at the marvelous deeds of God. You are invited to return to your Galilee, to look into interior joys and hopes of your heart! Ignatius calls it looking at the consolation. During these days I was oft praying with Brother Christian in the small chapel. I do not know him – like any of you – but I have seen him praying. And smiling. And it does mean for me that he can recall these peaks of the meeting point with the Risen Lord! And it supports me as well on my path. Brethren, “respect the elders”! And do not forget the other part of the sentence of your Rule: “and love the young”. Praise the Lord that he is inviting novices into your community! For you it is your community where you together can walk with God. And it is your mission to the world today and tomorrow: to offer this prayerful tent at the foot of Our Lady where people can enter in to enjoy silence and prayer. Please do not forget that you are a “School for the Lord’s service” so keep this place alive and teach praying to those entering as well.
I came here to find in a deeper silence, experience solitude in that Jesus can touch my heart and reshape my life. Many things helped me what I am thankful for: Your prayerful community, your welcome and the help I received from some of you., both the snowstorms and the spring like sunshine outside… (Thanks to my friend Agnes Strada who has always gushed about Genesee for many years now) It is a good place for contemplation. Now I go back to my Galilee with the hope of Ignatius that the contemplation in action is possible. But surely, what binds the both together is the patience to go fishing every day. Waiting for the God. All what I can do is to renew my decision to accomplish my part – and let it be blessed by the Risen One.
This decision is what the prayer of Ignatius is all about:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding, and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace.
That is enough for me.
God bless you. Keep fishing and rejoice: He is with you.