Today’s Gospel from Luke has so much activity that it can be hard to see beyond the surface: the lake, the boats, the crowd, the nets, the catch, and finally, the fishermen leaving their fishing behind.
It was helpful to me to see this from several perspectives: the crowd, Simon Peter, and Jesus.
The crowd is eager to hear this rabbi standing on the shore, so eager that their movement toward him keeps pushing him toward the water until he decides to get into a boat in order to preach. When he is finished speaking, do some of those people remain, hoping he will begin speaking again? Do some of them go back to the duties of their lives? How many witness the miraculous catch of fish?
Simon Peter is weary from a fruitless night of fishing and catching nothing, but when the Lord gets into his boat, he obliges and rows out a little way, and waits. Then Jesus issues a strange command for him to lower his nets (which Simon had been washing because he was already done fishing) for a catch. This is absurd. Fish are not caught this late in the morning, and Simon Peter, always quick with a retort, tells him that this will be useless; then, perhaps catching himself, says, “but at your command, I will lower the nets.” And the nets are overfilled with fish, so many that the nets are tearing and they need help from others to bring them in. Their boats are so full, they are in danger of sinking! Simon Peter is not weary anymore; every fiber of his being is now engaged! Then, overwhelmed at this inexplicable and exhausting event and regretting his initial doubt, he falls on his knees to confess his utter unworthiness to be in Jesus’ presence.
Jesus, ever the teacher, is teaching as we enter this scene. When he finishes preaching, he is still teaching; he wants to teach these first disciples an essential lesson, not about fishing, but about mission and evangelization. He tells them to do something rather ridiculous – after a night of fruitless labor, Jesus tells them to labor a little more. Then he fills their nets to overflowing and responds to the openness of Peter’s confession with a prophetic word: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
What can we learn?
- From the crowds, we learn to keep our eyes on Jesus; everything he does is overflowing with meaning!
- From Peter, we learn to TRUST Jesus, and obediently continue working even when things seem fruitless; if Peter had refused to put out his nets again, Jesus could not have filled them!
- From Jesus, we learn that the work is all HIS, so we need not be afraid of what he calls us to do, nor of our apparent fruitlessness; our efforts will bear fruit according to his will, if we are willing to leave everything and follow him unreservedly.
Kathryn is married to Robert, mother of seven, grandmother to two, and a lay Carmelite. She has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE, and also as a writer and voice talent for Holy Family Radio. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and presenter, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Faith Formation, individual parishes, and Catholic ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Learn more at www.kathryntherese.com or on Facebook @summapax.