The Sea

A Reflection by Patrica McElhone

The Angelus, January 2000.

It is 2,000 years since the birth of Christ - a milestone in the history of mankind. We, the people of Rosses Point, have been set down here by the providence of God - a providence that has surrounded us with great beauty that not only reflects His power and grandeur, but must also bring our hearts and thoughts to things eternal. Like the psalmist we can say: "I looked on the everlasting hills and had in mind the eternal years."

We have the sea. As we wake or sleep - it is there. As we live or die, the tide comes in and goes out. Ships, trawlers, yachts and boats challenge the humours of wind and waves. Children glory in summer seas. We fish. We dig for cockles. We gather mussels. Sea wrack has healing.

Our people have sailed the oceans of the world. Some have survived; others have been taken.

And so this sea of such beauty has claimed the lives of our villagers - the seabed becoming their grave, so that awful sorrow has been visited on loved ones and a profound mystery, as deep as the ocean, has left its mark.

The sea, boats, fishing, storms, fear and terror; these were as real to Jesus as he travelled around the Sea of Galilee as they are to us in Rosses Point, Coney and Oyster Islands.

We need never lack inspiration for our often-jaded prayers. The stories are there in the gospels, of the most beautiful intimacy, in which we too can walk the shores.

Could anything be more heart warming than the incident described in St John's Gospel, Chapter 21.

Jesus appeared to his disciples again afterwards, at the sea of Tiberias. And this is how he appeared to them. Simon Peter was there and with him were Thomas, who is called Didymus, and Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples. Saint Peter told them: "I am going out fishing," and they said: "We will go out with thee." So they went out and embarked on the boat and all that night they caught nothing. But when morning came, there was Jesus standing on the shore: only the disciples did not know it was Jesus. "Have you caught anything friends?" Jesus asked them, "to season your bread with?" And they answered no.

He said to them: "Cast on the right side of the boat and you will have a catch."

So they cast the net and found before long they had no strength to haul it in, such a shoal of fish was in it.

Whereon whom Jesus loved said to Peter: "It is the Lord." And Simon Peter, hearing him say that it was the Lord, girded up the fisherman's coat, which was all that he wore and sprang into the sea. The other disciples followed in the boat (they were not far from land, only some hundred yards away), dragging their catch in the net behind them. So they went ashore and found a charcoal fire made there, with fish and bread cooking on it. "Bring some of the fish you have just caught," Jesus said to them. And Simon Peter, going onboard, hauled in the net to land. It was loaded with great fish, a hundred and fifty three of them, and with all that number the net had not been broken. When Jesus said to them: "Come break your fast," none of the disciples ventured to ask him: "Who art thow?" knowing well that it was the Lord.

So Jesus came up and took bread, which he gave to them, and fish as well. Thus Jesus appeared to his disciples a third time after his rising from the dead.

It is a familiar story - an ordinary occurrence perhaps, but like those disciples it beckons us, to try again to trust, and to reap the rich harvest of God and the sea - for another thousand years.

This reflection on the sea in the life of all people, but especially those of Rosses Point, County Sligo, was composed by Patricia McElhone, and read by her at a Prayer Service in Rosses Point on New Year's Eve.