Young spouses, young religious, and committed Christians of any age have this figured out.
“Let down your nets” Jesus tells Peter in today’s Gospel.
He sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing (Luke 5:3-6).
As I hear these words, I hear Our Lord telling us: “Let down your guard.”
Allow the Gospel to transform your life. Dismiss your preconceived notions. Ignore the wisdom of our age. Turn to Christ and be changed.
Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an incredible essay on marriage and divorce in the United States. The authors pointed out that the wisdom of our culture encourages couples to wait until their 30s before tying the knot. Young couples, as the prevailing view goes, are more at risk for divorce.
A group less at risk
However, the article includes one fascinating piece of data:
In analyzing reports of marriage and divorce from more than 50,000 women in the U.S. government’s National Survey of Family Growth (NFSG), we found that there is a group of women for whom marriage before 30 is not risky: women who married directly, without ever cohabiting prior to marriage. In fact, women who married between 22 and 30, without first living together, had some of the lowest rates of divorce in the NSFG.
Increasingly, sociological and psychological research is demonstrating that cohabitation prior to marriage increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood of divorce. From the perspective of the Church, this is entirely unsurprising.
Dating, engagement, and marriage is a risk. Professor Gina Rhoades says about the phenomenon of cohabitation and stable marriages, “We generally think that having more experience is better…. But what we find for relationships is just the opposite. Having more experience is related to having a less happy marriage later on.”
Relationships require that lovers shed their false selves. The depths of the heart must be revealed to the beloved. But that revelation can only truly occur, so the Church says, within the confines of the commitment of the sacrament. Couples can’t experience married life without the graces and joys of marriage.
My best years
I joined the Dominican Order immediately after my graduation from college. And I even spent some of my college years in formation to be a diocesan priest. I’m often asked if I have any regrets about giving my “best” years to God. The answer is quite simple: absolutely not.
Last week when I prayed at St. Dominic’s tomb in Bologna, I gently sobbed as I thanked God for the life of this holy saint, for Dominic’s vision, and for the incredible project of the Order of Preachers. My years in religious life haven’t made me less myself. On the contrary, they’ve made me more completely myself. I can’t imagine my life without the Order. Nor, I imagine, could the other young men who have joined my province, lowering our median age to 46!
The same is true for young couples. I certainly know it’s true for my siblings and my closest friends. They can’t imagine their lives without their spouses or their children.
But finding such joy in life is not possible if we refuse to let down our nets.
If we keep to ourselves, if we follow the conventional wisdom or the wisdom of the age instead of Christ, more often than not, we’ll find ourselves weary and wounded. We have to consent to let down our nets; we have to follow our Lord’s word and teaching.
Begin in prayer
But this teaching is not just for young people considering marriage or religious life. This is the very pattern of Christian life! To let down our nets, we must begin in prayer. Pope Saint John Paul II tells us,
The command of Christ is particularly relevant in our time, when there is a widespread mentality which, in the face of difficulties, favours personal non-commitment. The first condition for “putting out into the deep” is to cultivate a deep spirit of prayer nourished by a daily listening to the Word of God. The authenticity of the Christan life is measured by the depth of one’s prayer, an art that must be humbly learnt “from the lips of the Divine Master.”
The authors of the aforementioned Wall Street Journal article conclude their piece saying, “If you’re a young woman thinking about getting married but worried about divorce, our research suggests that you need not wait until you’re 30—so long as you’ve found a good partner and don’t move in with anyone until after your wedding day.”
We Christians should live no less boldy. Let us not hesitate to confidently follow the words of Christ, to let let down our nets…to let down our guard.