The Gospel according to Luke (5:1-11)
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then 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. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
There have been several times in my life where I thought I had given everything, and I was sure there was nothing left. One time, I went on a 70-mile bike ride. But my longest ride prior to that was about 35 miles. I remember, about mile 50, I thought I was not going to make it. By mile 60 I was cramping badly and had to stop to regain some strength. When we got to the end, I could not believe I had made it. In today’s gospel, Jesus meets Peter after he had been fishing all night without anything to show for it. One can only imagine that he was exhausted and disappointed. I wonder why he complied with Jesus’ request to cast the nets once more. But he did. And we know what happened next.
It seems that there are moments in our lives when God allows us to toil to the point of what seems to be defeat. We, like Peter, are exhausted and disappointed. Yet, something, or better, someone encourages us to keep trying. This is where miracles can happen if we are open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
And why is it that miracles can cause us to react like Peter, astonished, ashamed, afraid. It is probably because miracles are meant to bring us into the presence of God. When we are that close to the author of life, we are very much aware of our fallen nature. When we are that close to the light, we see what we cover in the darkness of sin. Everything is revealed, the good and the bad. And like Adam and Eve, we want to hide.
What does Jesus do when Peter falls to his knees and begs that he depart from him? He tells him not to be afraid. After that, I would imagine the dialogue included an invitation to follow him because he told him he would become a fisher of men. Peter’s response was to leave everything behind and follow him. What do we do when we find ourselves at what appears to be failure only to be saved by the miracle of our faith in Jesus? Do we try to hide, or do we allow the mercy and love of Jesus to cast away our fear and follow him? The answer may reveal things both commendable and unflattering. But either way we can rely on the fidelity of Christ for those who choose to follow him. We too are called to be fishers of those who thirst for a better life both here and after we finish our race.
Action of the day:
I invite you to reflect on this reading. Put yourself in this moment. Imagine you are Peter, or one of the others that was there. Allow your thoughts and feelings to explore what happened. Are you aware of the overwhelming presence of Jesus? Are you astonished and afraid? Think about how Jesus bends down so he can lift us up as he tells us not to be afraid. Let his voice offer you the encouragement needed to give up everything and follow him.