Scripture Readings: Prophet Isaiah 6:1-2,3-8; First Corinthians 15:1-11; Gospel of Luke 5:1-11
Today’s Gospel passage recounts the miraculous catch of fish by Jesus’ first disciples. The successful catch is the result of Peter placing his trust in the words of Jesus, to “let down the nets,” even after a futile night of fishing, and trusting that great things will happen. And they do. Despite everything, including Peter’s long experience as a good fisherman, he nonetheless does what the Master instructs, and the outcome is huge success. An initially hopeless prospect—hours already spent in unsuccessful fishing—is strikingly contrasted with the amazing catch.
Is this Gospel text primary about catching fish? In fact, it is more about the transformation that comes in surrendering totally to Jesus, as did Peter. What Jesus wished to emphasize to Peter and his companions, is that they will be “fishers of human beings,” which is symbolized by the enormous amount of fish they catch under Jesus’ command. The really important miracle that takes place in the story of the abundant catch of fish, is the change that takes place in Peter through his obedience to Jesus, who is Lord of all and Head of the Church.
An important message of Jesus to Peter is “do not be afraid.” These are the same words Jesus uses after his Resurrection, to assure his followers that he is Savior of all, who promises the consolation of God’s Holy Spirit to all who put their trust in God. Just as Peter drew fish out of the water, so everyone who is Baptized in to Christ is brought out from the water to new life, on solid ground, namely as members of the Body of Christ, the Church.
Belonging to Christ means for each of us peace, security, rest, fulfillment, in a life that is under God’s watchful care and that extends even to life beyond our present existence. At some point all of us will pass from time to eternity. How do we prepare well for that event?
At the beginning of this Sunday’s Gospel text the people are pictured as eagerly pressing forward to hear Jesus. This fact underlines the personality and attractiveness of Jesus and his message. The first followers of Jesus, as well and Peter and the other Apostles, are to be models for us. Their eagerness to hear and embrace the word of God changed their lives forever and made them pillars of the Church. We are called to do likewise.
We might not ever be canonized saints of the Church, but that doesn’t matter. We are all called to be saints nonetheless and to do our part to make our world a better place, as we try with all our might to be worthy witnesses of the Gospel in the world during our lifetime. How best to do that? By living in the present, being attentive to those with whom we live, work, study, shop—whatever we are doing on any given day. It may not be a glamorous existence we are called to, but a gracious and generous one nonetheless.
The German Jesuit priest Alfred Delp, who died resisting Nazism in 1945, wrote the following lines, which sum up well the humble but noble task we are called to as Christians:
“When through one person a little more love and goodness, a little more light and truth comes into the world, then that person’s life has had meaning.”
Abbot Christian Leisy, OSB