Vatican City, Feb 6, 2022 / 06:35 am (CNA).
When all your efforts feel futile and leave you disappointed and empty, Jesus wants to be close to you, Pope Francis said on Sunday.
In his public message on Feb. 6, the pope said: “Every day the boat of our life leaves the shores of our home to go out into the sea of daily activities; every day we try to ‘fish in deep water,’ to cultivate dreams, to carry out projects, to live love in our relationships.”
“But often, like Peter, we experience the ‘night of empty nets’ — the night of empty nets — the disappointment of working so hard and not seeing the desired results,” Francis continued, speaking from a window of the Vatican which overlooks St. Peter’s Square.
The Lord loves to surprise us, he stated. He loves “to get into the boat of our lives when we have nothing to offer him; to enter our emptiness and fill it with his presence; to make use of our poverty to proclaim his wealth, of our miseries to proclaim his mercy.”
Before reciting the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, which recounts the moment when Jesus was preaching, surrounded by a crowd of people. Jesus sees the fishing boat of Simon Peter, and enters the boat to continue teaching the crowds gathered on the shore.
The Gospel of Luke says: “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.”
Like with St. Peter, previously called Simon, Jesus wants to be close to us, no matter what situation we are in, Pope Francis said.
“Let us remember this: God does not want a cruise ship; a poor, ‘ramshackle’ boat is enough for him, as long as we welcome him,” he emphasized.
“But do we — I ask myself — let him get in the boat of our life? Do we make available to him the little we have?”
The pope noted that sometimes, because of our sins, we feel unworthy of the Lord. “But this is an excuse that the Lord does not like, because it distances him from us,” Francis said. “He is the God of closeness, of compassion, of tenderness, and he does not seek perfectionism: He seeks reception.”
“If we welcome the Lord into our boat, we can put out to sea. With Jesus, we sail the sea of life without fear, without giving in to disappointment when one catches nothing, and without surrendering to [the idea that] ‘there is nothing more to do,’” he said.
According to Pope Francis, there is always something beautiful and courageous which can be done, in our own lives and in the life of the Church and of society.
“We can always start over, the Lord always invites us to get back in the game, because he opens up new possibilities. So let us accept the invitation: Let us chase away pessimism and mistrust and put out to sea with Jesus. Even our little empty boat will witness a miraculous fishing,” he said.
After praying the Angelus, the pope drew attention to two “days” observed on Feb. 6, which draw awareness to important issues: The International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation and the Catholic Church in Italy’s Day for Life.
In Italy, the Day for Life was celebrated on Feb. 6 with the theme “Protect every life.”
“This appeal is valid for everyone, especially for the most vulnerable categories: the elderly, the sick, and even children who are prevented from being born,” he said. “I join the Italian bishops in promoting the culture of life as a response to the logic of rejection and to the demographic decline. Every life must be preserved, always.”
The pope also spoke about the practice of female genital mutilation, an operation which he said approximately three million girls undergo each year, “often in conditions that are very dangerous to their health.”
“This practice, unfortunately widespread in various regions of the world, demeans the dignity of women and gravely undermines their physical integrity,” he stated.
Pope Francis noted that on Feb. 8, the Catholic Church will celebrate the feast of ex-slave Saint Josephine Bakhita and the World Day of Prayer and Reflection against Human Trafficking. He praised the service of Talitha Kum, a network of religious sisters and others who work to end modern slavery around the world, and blessed a sculpture of Saint Bakhita by artist Timothy P. Schmalz.
Human trafficking “is a deep wound, inflicted by the shameful pursuit of economic interests without any respect for the human person,” he said. “So many girls — we see them on the streets — who are not free, are slaves of traffickers, who send them to work and, if they do not bring the money, beat them. This is happening in our cities today. Let us really think about it.”