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Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe

By Mary Regina Morrell
Catholic Online

“Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No." So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.” John 21:3-6

It seems like a lifetime ago when my husband and I and our six sons took our first camping vacation with our friends, John and Rose, and their five kids. It was a “dry-run,” so to speak, to prepare us for our planned cross-country trip the next summer.

We chose a lovely campground in Virginia and set off, armed with the essentials – tents, sleeping bags, snacks, ghost stories and an unusually ample supply of toilet paper.

Upon arriving, we set up home base and proceeded to investigate our surroundings to find out what kind of activities were available for our 11 children.

Our husbands, of course, set off to discover the manly activities that would nourish their adventurous spirits. They found the lake and an empty canoe.

Early the next morning Rose and I walked them down to the water and listened as they planned their adventure. The “men-folk” would be gone for hours, they said, so the “women-folk” shouldn’t worry! Always the jokesters, those two.

We watched them climb into the canoe with their stuff, turn their backs to the shore and start rowing. Rose and I stood chatting while the kids collected rocks, but after five minutes or so we realized our guys were still just about where they started, all the time rowing, harder and harder, until John was breaking a sweat.

Maybe it was our laughter that got John’s attention, or maybe he just wanted to check on their progress, but what he discovered when he finally turned around was that, in spite of all their effort, they had moved only about a foot away from the shore.

Apparently the current at that particular part of the lake was moving so strongly against them that the work of rowing was proving futile as they tried to move forward.

Eventually, after they regained their composure, the “men-folk” overcame their obstacles, but not before earning the auspicious title of “Men-Going-Nowhere!”

At one time or another, most of us have found ourselves in that little canoe, where no matter how much energy or effort we put into something, we are unable to move forward.

Whether it is in our personal lives, our emotional lives or our spiritual lives, we then have a decision to make. Do we sit in the canoe and pray for the current to change; do we give up altogether, or do we put down our oars and pray for the strength to move the canoe to a place where the current is running with us?

Simon Peter knew that place of being unable to move forward.

At least twice in the Gospel we hear the story of Peter and the disciples spending a night in the back-breaking labor of fishing, throwing their nets into the sea and bringing them back empty. It would have been easy to give up, or wait for the tides to change, but Peter put his faith in Jesus who told him to take his boat out into deep water and lower his nets.

Peter was no doubt exhausted, as were the rest of the disciples, but his words are an inspiration for all of us who find ourselves, from time to time, like “men-going-nowhere.”

He said, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

The strength to lower the nets, or move the canoe, is always ours if we just ask for it, and trust that it will be given.


Cattholic Online  CA, US
Mary Regina Morrell - Author, 661 869-1000



Trust, moving forward, canoe, nets

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