Homily for the fifth Sunday of the Year - Year C - Lk. 5:1-11


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" While the people pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simons, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.


" And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, «Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.» And Simon answered, «Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.» And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, «Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.» For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, «Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.» And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. "




Homily:


" While the people pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. "


Jesus is in Galilee, on the shore of the lake of Gennesaret, that is, the Sea of Galilee. He teaches the people who are gathered there and who are captivated by the discourse they heard. "The people pressed upon Jesus to hear the word of God." For what Jesus says inflames spirits and hearts, it fills the mind with many thoughts and with ever more numerous unanswered questions... Jesus proclaims eternal Life, that Life which belongs to the heavenly Father; the Holy Spirit, as his mission, is to bring that Life to germination and make it bear fruit in the souls of the men and women of all time!


" And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simons, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. "


This is where Saint Luke situates the meeting of Jesus and Simon Peter, a meeting that, according to the evangelist, seems to be the first of its kind. In fact, another evangelist, Saint John, who wrote his Gospel after Saint Luke did, left us the testimony of the very first meeting between the Master and he who was to change his name and henceforth be called Peter, or Cephas, in Aramaic: "One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, «We have found the Messiah» (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, «So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas» (which means Peter)." (Jn. 1:40-42)


This first meeting between Jesus and Peter remained quite unknown and was more or less secret, for it was a completely private conversation, about which, in any case, we shall never know anything except for the word Jesus had spoken to Simon: "You shall be called Cephas." (Jn. 1:42) Everything that Christ himself and Simon Peter said on that occasion remains, and will forever remain, their secret. It was like a preparation for the great Work they were both going to do for the salvation of the world, a work done by Christ as a divine Rock, and Simon as a human Rock.


Today, Jesus finds Simon and Andrew cleaning or repairing their fishing nets. Wanting to leave the shore, Jesus gets into Simon and Andrew's boat, and asks them to move a short distance away from the shore in order that he might thus be able to teach the crowd assembled before him. There is no doubt that Simon Peter is very attentive! He does not want to miss any of this discourse; moreover, he now has a front-row seat! For, ever since the day when Jesus gave him his new name "Cephas", Simon never stops asking himself questions, such as: "What does this mean for me? Why would a fisher of fish be given such a name?" etc...


" And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, «Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.» And Simon answered, «Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.» "


Simon is truly dismayed... He expected to hear a beautiful discourse addressed solely to him, sublime words on the new Life the Master proclaims so well, words so impassioned and so convincing, and instead he is asked to go fishing once again... Truly, what a paradox! But Simon has already understood something: Jesus is the Master, and Simon is the pupil, the disciple, he who must obey the commands of the Lord. For Simon is not to do his own work, but rather to collaborate in the Work of God: he must help the Master and do the Master's Will, and not his own. This is something he is always ready to do, no matter what the cost. And he will keep his promise, even though, before receiving the "power from on high" (Lk. 24:49) on the day of Pentecost, he did deny his Master, due to weakness and presumption...


To Simon, Jesus' command is truly surprising. Not only does Jesus not address spiritual words to Simon, but he gives him a command which goes against all he knows as a fisherman: Simon knows perfectly well that if he did not catch anything during the entire night, he will not catch anything now that the sun is up either... Truly, this is the summit of obedience! Jesus asks Simon to give up absolutely everything in order to do his will, the will of the Master of all things. But Simon received from Jesus a special grace and favor, that of his new name, which for him is already a power from on high... And Simon will cast the nets on the Lord's command: "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."


" And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. "


Here is obedience being rewarded! It is commonly said that obedience produces miracles! So then can we say that Simon Peter was the author of this miraculous fishing? No, certainly not; but Simon Peter was truly there for a reason... Was it not necessary for someone to cast the net, in order for someone else to fill it with fish? It is clear that Simon Peter collaborated in the Work of the Lord Jesus. This is truly the role and the mission of Peter. The Lord Jesus wanted to perform this miracle - the miraculous catch of fish - in order for Simon Peter to finally understand what he, the Master, expected from his disciple. It was necessary for Simon to be carrying out his own trade, his human work, in order that, through it, based on this foundation he understood perfectly, he might truly grasp all that the Lord Jesus expected from him. The proof of this is Simon Peter's reaction to this miracle.


" But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, «Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.» For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. "


Simon Peter and his companions are truly terrified, terrified by their unworthiness as sinners who, through a simple motion - throwing their nets - a motion that they have undoubtedly done hundreds and thousands of times, contributed in this way to the realization of a miracle that surpasses them in the kindness and mercy directed to them which it signifies. Jesus, the Master, who is there with them, has just testified to his endless, boundless love for them, for those sinners... Truly, they are terrified by the motion which they have dared to do, on the Lord's command...


" And Jesus said to Simon, «Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.» And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. "


Jesus reassures Simon in particular: "Jesus said to Simon, «Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.» " From a fisher of fish, Peter becomes a fisher of men! What a noble mission! But it is also an intimidating one. For men and women cannot be treated like fish... So Jesus makes a point of reassuring Simon Peter: "Do not be afraid... " Is it not fear that paralyses us and stops us from accomplishing marvellous things? For we who live in the twenty-first century are also, with Peter, with the Lord Jesus, called to be fishers of men. So may fear not be our counsellor! As Pope John Paul II said at the beginning of his pontificate, in October 1978: "Non abbiate paura!" "Do not be afraid!"


Like Simon Peter and the other disciples, let us follow the Lord Jesus! Let us be guided by the Spirit! Let us place our trust in our heavenly Mother, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary: who else could teach us faith and obedience to the words of her Divine Son?



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