FR. MIKE’S WEDNESDAY HOMILY OF THE 22ND WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME CYCLE I
THEME: THE CALL OF THE FIRST DISCIPLES OF JESUS
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
HOMILY: Lk 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.
The Gospel today is St. Luke’s version of the call of the first disciples of Jesus. The whole event takes place near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus is teaching the people, and in no time, His listeners grows in number, and Jesus has to find a way to avoid the press of the large crowd. He sees two boats moored near the shore. One of them belongs to Simon. “Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.”
Sitting on the boat and preaching from there has an obviously practical reason. He can avoid being pushed by the crowd, yet He can still be clearly heard. But this has an important symbolism. Sitting is the official position of the teacher. This is the posture of Jesus while He was teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, and in the Sermon on the Mount. Furthermore, the boat is the traditional symbol of the church. The boat belongs to Simon, who will be named Peter, the Rock. This image, therefore, tells the whole story: There is only one Teacher, Jesus, the Messiah, who is the Head of the Church that He established on the foundation of Peter and the apostles.
In addition, we may ask why He was on the shore instead of being in the synagogue. It can be recalled in the previous chapter that Jesus was expelled from the synagogue of Nazareth. And in Capernaum, He has to contend with the rapidly growing crowd, and they may not be accommodated inside the synagogue. And among them are people who do not belong to the category of pious and law abiding Jews. Some of them are even considered public sinners. So, they rarely go to the synagogue. Thus, Jesus tries to reach out to them by preaching outside the confines of the synagogue.
After teaching, Jesus asks Simon to go fishing. But His instruction is very strange: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” For any seasoned fisherman such as Peter, this request cannot be taken seriously. That is why, he reasons out: “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.” His point is valid, for two reasons. First, fishing is usually done at night, because the fish are attracted to the light of the boat. So, if during the whole night they caught nothing, it is futile to go fishing in the daytime. And second, the net is used in relatively shallow waters where it can reach closer to the seafloor, and lesser chance for the fish to escape. But Jesus tells Peter: “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Obviously, Jesus does not know the principles and techniques of fishing. After all, He is a carpenter, not a fisherman.
Fortunately, for Simon, the words of the Lord prevailed over his human knowledge and skills. So, he adds, “but at your command I will lower the nets.” And the miraculous catch of a great number of fish takes place to the complete amazement of the fishermen.
The experience makes Simon realize the presence of the divine , and with it is the awareness of his sinfulness and utter unworthiness: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” This reaction is also seen in the experiences of Abraham (Gen 18:27), Job (42:6) and Isaiah (6:5).
Jesus, then, assures Simon and his companions: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” It is clear, therefore, that His instruction, “Put out into deep water”, is not really about fishing, but an invitation for them to share in His mission to establish the Kingdom for the salvation of souls. And they accepted the invitation: “When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”
God knows what is best for us. We do not question His wisdom, for He works in mysterious ways. Like Peter, we just have to obey and trust Him at all times. And we will surely be amazed by the wonderful results.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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