Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Cast Your Net - Annual Pastoral Appeal Speech

At the risk of putting you to sleep, I want to ask you to close your eyes. I want you to participate in the Ignatian exercise of imaging yourself in a piece of scripture. I want you to think of yourself as one of the disciples on the boat with Simon Peter or even imagine that you are Simon Peter, or James, or John or an additional member of the crew that night. In whatever way you can, put yourself into today's Gospel reading as I reread and paraphrase a portion of it.

You've been out fishing all night, which means you've been up all night. You also haven't caught a thing. You're tired. You're damp from the crashing waves and maybe even a bit sweaty from casting and collecting your nets, which have grown heavier and longer as the night has continued.

You're just about to cut your losses and head back home when Jesus tells you, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon says in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

So, one more time, even though you think it completely pointless, you go back out into the deep water and cast your net.

You catch a great number of fish, so many that your nets are actually tearing from the weight. You call to your partners in the other boat, "We need some help with this catch! You won't believe it! Come quickly!" 

Your companions hurry to where you are and assist in reeling in this abundant catch. Your excitement turns into giddiness and for a second you imagine that you must be dreaming. You haven't had a bite all night and now, exhausted, you yield the biggest catch of your life.

Both boats get filled with so many fish that they are in danger of sinking.

You and the entire crew are absolutely astonished at the number of fish. You hear Peter say something but you're too overwhelmed to process what he's saying. You hear Jesus respond, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

You return to shore. You unload the boat, still amazed at the enormity of what has happened. In this moment, you commit yourself to following this man named Jesus wherever he may lead you.

Now I want you to consider this story in light of our Annual Pastoral Appeal. I want you to consider that your emotion about hearing me speak this morning is probably similar to what the disciples felt when they heard Jesus tell them to put back out into the deep one more time and cast their nets. You've been asked for money from so many different people in so many different ways. You're tired of it. You figure that nothing good will come of it or that what you can give won't make enough of a difference so why bother. 

If I'm correct in this assumption, or at least close to hitting the mark, I want you to also consider that casting your net by making a donation to this year's annual pastor appeal will yield such an abundant harvest that you will be overwhelmed by the catch. You may not be met with the giddiness that the disciples experienced on the morning of that record setting catch, but you will make a difference that extends far beyond the walls and property of Incarnation and is far greater than any monetary amount you can offer.

The German poet Goethe writes, 
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back-- Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”  
Cast your nets. Give Him two fish and five loaves. Bring Him six jars of water. Commit and let Providence, that is Jesus, move.

Today, Incarnation Catholic Church is asking for your commitment in this year's annual pastoral appeal.

With the help of APA funding last year Catholic Charities helped over 14,500 clients; 3,600 children and over 11,000 adults. Shelters of Hope programs provide safe living environments for families and individuals facing a limited income, disability, crisis, or other situation that causes them to be without housing. Over 4,000 families received this service thanks to APA funds last year. Pinellas Hope, a facility that provides temporary housing for up to 250 people, has helped over 1,000 individuals since opening in 2006. 67% of APA funds go for services for our parishes, Catholic schools, and social services such as those previously mentioned. APA funds support the education of our 30 seminarians and it supports 17 men and their wives who are in formation for the permanent diaconate. The other 33% of the funds go to support Parish and diocesan ministries such as the migrant apostolate, prison ministry, Spirit FM, Scouting, and the Marriage Tribunal which helps people going through difficult process of a divorce and potential annulment.

This year our APA goal is $211,180. This assessment must be paid through your generosity. Otherwise the funds come out of Incarnation's normal collections or savings, cutting into the ministries and services offered here at Incarnation.

If you are prepared, you can make a donation today. There are envelopes and forms in your pews. If you're writing a check, please just ensure that you put Incarnation in the memo line. You can decide to spread your donation out over the course of the year making monthly payments instead of one lump sum. You can pay via credit card. You can apply match grant funds if your company or business performs this charitable service.
Above all else, right now, we are asking for your commitment. In just a moment you'll be afforded some time to pray, reflect and even dialogue with your family about making a commitment. It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will come into your hearts and inspire you to cast your nets.

You may be tired of giving. You may think that what you have to give doesn't matter or isn't enough to make a difference.

But today, providentially, Jesus is telling us to "Put out into the deep waters and lower our nets for a catch." He's telling us to commit so that Providence can move, too. Jesus is encouraging us that whatever we can do, or dream we can do, to do it.

Cast your net and allow Jesus to turn it into something amazing.