Luke 5: 1-11
In the opening line of this Sunday’s gospel we see Jesus standing by the Lake of Gennesaret with people pressing in on him. Gennesaret means the ‘garden of riches’. So, it was a very fertile place.
So there Jesus is, and he is standing, overlooking the water. In the last few Sundays, he was in the synagogue. True, he will be back there, but the time is coming when the doors of the synagogue will be closed against him. His church will then be the lakeside and the open road, and his pulpit a boat.
I imagine it must have been tiring and difficult for Jesus to teach the people while being hemmed in on all sides. He solves that difficulty when he spots two empty boats nearby. With the go-ahead from Peter, the owner of the boats, he sits into one and begins teaching the people. He can clearly see each one now, and he has space to breathe. In the next part of the gospel is the miracle of the large catch of fish. There is much for us to reflect on in this part of the gospel.
Jesus says to Simon, “Put out into deep water and put out your nets for a catch.”
Jesus, a carpenter, is addressing seasoned fishermen. They earned their living from fishing. It is hard work and requires a lot of commitment, daily grind, risk, night time , laboring and team work. So here is Jesus, a carpenter, giving directions to seasoned fisherman who knew that trying to net fish in the middle of the day was a waste of time. We have no idea what went on in Peter’s mind, but I imagine him saying under his breath, “Well if that’s what you want, we’ll do it but I know it is a complete waste of time. However, I respect you so we’ll give it a try.”
We know that by doing what they were asked, they netted a huge number of fish and had to call for help from their friends in the other boat. I know it was a wonderful miracle, but to me the heart of this gospel lies in what happened to Peter.
What happened was that Peter discovered that once you let Jesus into your life anything can happen. Give Jesus and inch, he will take a mile. Peter is over-awed by what happened and makes what is now a very familiar statement, “Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man,” as he falls at Jesus’ feet. This could be interpreted as Peter getting in touch with his own weakness and realizing how powerful Jesus is. I also imagine it could be Peter saying, “Look, Jesus, I’m too weak and sinful to get involved with you. I won’t be able to cope.” Jesus’ response to Peter is not to give in to him but to challenge him further. “Do not be afraid, from now on it is people you will catch. Catching fish is difficult enough, but to ‘catch’ people is a whole other ball game. Jesus challenge to Peter (and it included James and John) and his utter confidence in him, thus opening him to bigger things really paid off, because the last line of the gospel states, “Then bringing their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”
Therein lies a huge challenge for us all. That despite our personal inadequacies, fears, lack of trust and the myriad excuses we so easily come up with not to change, Jesus keeps on assuring us that he wants to use our feeble efforts to bring love and encouragement not only to those around us, but to the whole earth, our home.
So, the question is , as we each reflect on this powerful gospel, in what ways is Jesus calling us beyond ourselves and out of our comfort zones to make a difference no matter how small.
Pauline McGrath, OP