SUNDAY REFLECTION for 5th Sunday Ordinary Time of the Year
((1st: Is 6, 1-8; Ps: 137; 2nd: I Cor 15, 1-11; Gos: Lk 5, 1-11)
A close look at all our readings today reveals one common phenomenon; the feeling and expression of unworthiness by all the personalities (Isaiah, Paul and Peter). Truly speaking and given fact that they are humans beings, they were not worthy for God’s mission. The first reading tells the story of the call of Isaiah, who protested, “Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of Armies!” In the Second reading Paul pronounces himself “the least of the apostles, who is not worthy to be called an apostle, because he persecuted the Assembly of God, and in the gospel. Peter’s response to the miracle of the abundant catch fits nicely with the Old Testament and Epistle lessons.
Using the gospel as my analytic tool, one notices that the main figure on the scene, apart from Jesus himself, is Simon Peter. It is his boat that Jesus uses. It is he to whom Jesus speaks first, asking him to go into the deep water. While Mark and Matthew speak of Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee and abruptly calling Simon, Andrew, James, and John to follow him (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20), only Luke tells the story of a miraculous catch of fish preceding the call.
In the gospel, Simon Peter is the only person who speaks to Jesus. He addresses him as “master” (Greek: epistat ēs, a term used for tutors and teachers) at 5:5. But after the miraculous catch, he addresses him as “Lord” (kyrios) at 5:8. Likewise, Simon Peter is the only one whom Jesus addresses directly; both when he tells him to go into the deep water (5:4), and, interestingly, even at the end of the story when he says “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (5:10), Making him the key figure here.
Cast the Net
Jesus tells Simon to put out into the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Simon obviously believes this will be a futile exercise. He is the professional fisherman, after all. We can almost hear the exasperation in his voice when he responds, “Master, we have worked all night but have caught nothing.” But then he continues; “Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” (5:4-5). Sometimes we find it difficult and weak to obey God’s injunctions and to do what God demands of us. The missionary activity demands, yes to work and yes to God’s word. You must let down your net. You have to get down to work. God demands our yes to His call and willingness to work. It was Mary’s yes to the message of the angel that begins the salvific history of humanity. In all He does, Jesus was in perfect obedience to The Almighty Father and ready to work, then wrought salvation for humanity.
The Called do resist
When Simon is called, he resists, as do Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, to name but three (Exodus 3:11; Isaiah 6:1-11; Jeremiah 1:6). Sometimes many called, always resist. Simon objects to Jesus’ command to go out to the deep water, but then he does as he was told to do (5:5). And something significant happened. Those called resist because they were only paying attention to their weakness. But that’s not God’s interest. Many people today concentrate on what they think they cannot do well and thus allow it to affect what they do. Jesus calls Simon and his partners as they are. Simon is acutely aware of his unworthiness, but Jesus is not put off by this in the slightest. Jesus encounters him as he is, tells him not to be afraid, and calls him to a new mission of catching people.
Throughout Scripture we see that human sin, failure, and inadequacy are no obstacles to God’s call. God calls imperfect people to do God’s work, people who are aware of their unworthiness and are often doubting and resistant to God’s call (see, for example, Exodus 3:10-12; Isaiah 6:1-6; Jeremiah 1:6-8.) God doesn’t wait for them to shape up. God calls them as they are and then works on shaping them into faithful servants. Our yes to Gods work will always put everything in place. Don’t worry about your imperfections. Jesus knows what to do with you.
Secondly, Simon Peter protests Jesus’ instructions to go out into the deep waters and let down the nets because he is convinced that the fish are not there. They have worked all night and caught nothing. We can hardly blame him for his skepticism. Remember he is a professional, this brings to the fore our limitation and Gods supernaturality. With the physical eyes many may think low of you, or you may be thinking low of where you are. Where our knowledge and strength ends, God continues. What is impossible in the natural plane is always possible in the supernatural plane. Place everything in the Hands of God, your function is to pray and obey Gods injunctions, only God knows the how everything will happen. How often do we avoid putting out into the deep waters of following and bearing witness to Jesus because we are convinced that we will not see any results? We are called to go deep-sea fishing with Jesus, to trust and follow him outside our comfort zones, to let go of our certainties, to have our faith deeply rooted in Him.
Depart from me
Another is the exclamation of Simon, saying that the “Lord” should depart from him because of his being a sinful man (5:8). It is a common biblical motif for a person to feel unworthy in the presence of the divine (Exodus 3:6; 33:20; Judges 6:22; 13:22; Isaiah 6:5; Luke 18:13). Being in the presence of God requires humility. Humble yourself before the mighty throne of God. In His presence we are nothing. When Isaiah and Peter were in the presence of the divine and recognized how sinful they are, God responded immediately to their quest to be cleansed. God did not push them away, and he can never push away any who comes to him with a sincere heart. When you tell Jesus how sinful you are, he will never yell at you, he will never reject you, and rather he will find a way to cleanse you. Always approach the throne of mercy and grace with confidence. (Heb 4:16). Isaiah’s experience apparently takes place in “the temple” (verse 1), the innermost portion of which was known as the “Holy of Holies.” It housed the ark, which was viewed as God’s earthly throne. Isaiah is aware of standing in the very presence of God and God’s heavenly council. Remember that in 1 Kings 22:19, the Prophet Micah saw the LORD sitting on his throne,” surrounded by heavenly attendants. Isaiah knows he has truly been confronted by “the King, the LORD of hosts. Even though encountering and being encountered by the Holy God appropriately humble him, Isaiah has nothing to fear. God is not out to kill him, but rather to forgive him. Since this a direct experience of God, no sacrifice need be brought or offered. The fire of the altar, conveyed by the seraphs, is cleansing enough. Isaiah is forgiven (verses 6-7).
The Great Catch
Finally, the miracle of the great catch is, like others in the gospels, more than one should expect. The exceeding of expectations appear in other miracle stories too, as in the Healing of the Paralytic (Luke 5:17-26), the Feeding of the Multitudes (Luke 9:12-17), and the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). The point is that this is an utterly unprecedented catch of fish in a location that seemed hopelessly unproductive the night before. And it was caught at the powerful and authoritative word of Jesus. No matter where you are, no matter how small, no matter the circumstance surrounding you, put all your trust in Gods supernatural power. Only He grants the increase. What you do, where you are, and quantity of what you have are not determinant factors to the grace of God around you. Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’” The multitude of fish caught by Jesus’ power and authority is a pointer to what would happen later in the book of Acts and beyond. Acts 5:14, “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women.” Acts 14:1, “In Iconium a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.”
And the catching here, of course, is not to kill and eat, but to save and feed. The comparison is not between what happens to fish and what happens to people. The comparison is between trusting Christ to help you gather fish and trusting Christ to help you gather people. By Jesus’ power and authority multitudes of people will be caught for eternal kingdom.
Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.’” Just as it was James and John (v. 10) and Peter, the human fishermen, who brought in the fish, so it will be human fishers of men who bring in the people. It is by Jesus’ power and authority that they come, but they come through the evangelistic work of man. Converts to Christ come by Christ’s power, but by man’s agency and willingness to work, to cast the net. “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me,” Jesus said, “so go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:18-19). Christ is the decisive power and authority in winning people, but followers of Christ are the instruments of that power, so they need to be willing to cast the net, notwithstanding their weaknesses, the circumstances that surround them and the state of where they are. ONLY JESUS PERFECTS THE IMPERFECT.
Guess what! Whatever happened today was in the presence of God. In His presence the imperfect becomes perfect, in His presence grace of work abounds, in His presence the impossible becomes possible. In His presence the sinner is cleansed, in His presence great things happen. Always be in His presence to receive the unction to function.
Fr. Sanctus Mario