"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."
Since the Protestant Reformation, there has been a lot of ink spilled and words spoken about faith versus works as they pertain to our salvation. The above passage is an excellent example of how faith and works can operate in the lives of all followers of Christ. Acting (working) on what faith reveals is vital in Christian life, and involves daily prayer and ongoing discernment. We can see in scripture and in the lives of the saints examples of faith in action.
Simon, who was an accomplished fisherman, acted on faith by obeying a command that didn’t readily make sense to him. He makes his point, based on his experience and knowledge, but then capitulates in deference to Jesus. The rest of the story shows a net-breaking catch, and provides an excellent example of how faith and works go together.
In 2 Corinthians: 5-7, St. Paul used a phrase that has been quoted throughout the centuries: “We walk by faith, not by sight”. Simon Peter acted on his faith in Jesus, but only after contending with what his “sight” was telling him. The command to “put out into the deep water” may have seemed useless, but was put into action anyway with astonishing results.
To walk by faith in the midst of daily life has its challenges. Today, in the 21st century, the struggle between what we perceive through faith and what we “see” through reason can seem to be at odds with one another. By placing faith above our natural ability to reason, we can begin to move from adherence to a static set of beliefs to an active outworking of what faith compels and inspires. The Letter of James speaks to the mutual reliance of faith and works:
“What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” (James 2: 14-26)
It has been said that the longest journey we make is that from the head to the heart. Perhaps the journey from the heart to faith in action is the second longest. Let us pray for the grace to know God’s will through discernment, and to do His will by availing ourselves of His wisdom and divine assistance.