Bad Fisherman! That would be me. I hate stringing a line or taking a flapping fish off of it. Peter, the apostle-to-be was a pro. In this weekend’s Scriptures he is down on his luck. Peter and his crew had fished all night and caught nothing. They had already washed their nets. They were done for the day. The future pope was going home to put his feet up. This was the scene for another epiphany.
Nothing can move the heart of a fisherman like the big one “that got away” or a net at breaking point. Jesus had taught the crowds from Peter’s boat. And when class was over, he invited the disappointed fisherman to try one more time and lower the nets for “a catch.” Peter complained about those that got away the previous night, then halfheartedly (I think) complied. After all, what could a carpenter turned recently turned rabbi know about fishing?
What happened next was better than any fish story. The nets were taking in so many fish that they were breaking. Eventually, both boats were about to sink with the great catch. They were rich… like hitting the Powerball on a Saturday night. He now calls Jesus, “Lord” — “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” The way to a fisherman heart is through a good catch and the stories he will be able to embellish later. Like the shepherds of Bethlehem’s’ hills, Peter has had an epiphany of something remarkable. His sin was the half-heart that like ours often does not feel worthy of God’s attention.
Jesus’ does not seem to have time for a groveling fisherman, but simply gave him a new fishing license. “…from now on you will be catching [people].” Jesus calls Peter and the likes of us to a new role. This had nothing to do with their adequacy or worthiness. Peter’s was to hold the keys to “people catching,” was a free gift of the Son of God. “…put out into the deep for a catch, ” he continues to challenge. Go deeper, further into new waters. Amazing what you might hook. We are not prepared, and we feel un-worthy…God chooses whomever he wills for what needs to be done to bring forth the reign of God.
Isaiah struggled with his call to be a prophet. “I got shortcoming to make a sailor blush with shame.” But Jesus seemed in a rush for the coming Kingdom of God. The call of God is enough. We put out into the deep for a catch that will increase the reign around us. Going to a new school, showing up on a new job, becoming engaged to be married … these kinds of events can give us concern or make us hesitate with “unworthy and perceived sinful ness.” Both are beside the point. A nudge from another person can prompt us to take a new step forward and cast the net out again on the other side.
Lent begins this coming week. Join us for Ash Wednesday. Come toss out your nets into the deeper waters of Wednesday Soup and study”, Friday Confessions and Stations of the Cross and prayerful daily noon Eucharist.
A gentle week,
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM