WelCom February 2022
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Gospel Luke 5:1-11
1 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.’
5 Simon replied, ‘Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.’
6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.
7 So they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’
9 For he and all those with were seized with astonishment at the catch of fish they had made, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’
11 When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.
Jesus takes Simon fishing
In today’s story, Jesus preaches to a crowd on the shore of Israel’s Lake Gennesaret. Jesus noticed two boats anchored close to the shore, belonging to fishermen who were washing their nets. One of these belonged to Simon. Noting the crowd, Jesus asked Simon to put out a little from the shore, so that he could sit in the boat and with a clear atmosphere, preaching to them.
We do not know what he taught the crowds this day, but in this story, even though Simon had already experienced Christ’s miracles, we get a sense of Simon’s scepticism. Remembering the wedding in Cana, where Jesus changed water into wine, Simon thought any wine merchant could do that. Simon was a tough fisherman. He knew fishing and understood the difficulties involved, so when Jesus asked Simon to put out into the deep for a catch, he wondered what Jesus knew about fishing – especially since Simon had been out all night and caught nothing. But as Jesus was becoming a friend, Simon decided to give Jesus the benefit of any doubt, and so he paid out the nets.
To Simon’s amazement the catch was more than his boat could hold and he signalled his companions for assistance. The catch now filled the two boats immediately drawing a reaction from Simon. He fell on his knees asking Jesus to go away because of his embarrassment at his own lack of faith which highlighted his sinfulness. Jesus acknowledged his humility telling Simon not to be afraid because from now on it would be people that he would catch.
It is hard not to sympathise with Simon. In this modern age, we ourselves have learnt from the school of hard knocks to be sceptical of smooth-talking sales agents offering much more than what reality suggests could be credible. Yet our Church teaches us to have faith in a God we cannot sense with the very physical senses that God has created us with. From today’s story we can take comfort from the fact that Christ was sympathetically merciful, not blaming or condemning Simon for his lack of faith. Despite Simon’s scepticism, his decision to obey Christ’s suggestion – as incredulous as it seemed at the time – was enough. And we know that Simon Peter, a humble fisherman, went on to catch people for Christ.
That should be our prayer, to ask Christ to give us the courage to obey his suggestions in whatever way our human constraints permit, and then be open enough to revel in whatever surprise awaits us.
Tom Gibson is a retired dairy farmer and a parishioner at Immaculate Conception, Stratford, Taranaki.