Author: Ian Harris
Luke 5: 1 – 11
Imagine yourself in Peter’s shoes in the setting described in the fifth chapter of Luke’s Gospel. You’re out working hard all night in a not so glorious job and you have nothing to show for it. Then, this Jesus guy gets in your boat, tells you how to do your job, and you pull in the catch of a lifetime. I think Simon Peter has every right to be a little shocked, wouldn’t you be? But the miracle itself isn’t what stands out to me. Rather, it’s how Peter approaches the miracle and how he reacts to it.
Today, the word obedience has a very negative connotation. We don’t always like being told what to do. We like having the ‘freedom’ to do whatever we want even when we suspect that it may not be the best thing for us. What it really means to be ‘free’ could be a topic for its own book let alone a blog post, but I am not qualified to write either so instead of looking at the nitty gritty I want to go deeper into how Peter’s obedience led him to a greater freedom. Once Jesus is on the boat, he asks Simon to lower the nets into deeper water. Simon responds simply and obediently, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” Simon Peter gives a simple yes and it does not go unnoticed by Christ. Jesus is not stingy with his grace when his request is met with a faithful yes.
We may not be avid fishermen, but I think we can find this relevant in our lives. We all know what it’s like to work hard all night and catch nothing. To put in long hours studying for classes and still be anxious on exam day. To go to the gym consistently and still not see that six pack. To go to mass every Sunday and still not “feel it”. To go to confession for the same sins and still be back in a week or two. The same way Jesus asks something of Simon he also asks something of us. He asks that we keep praying, that we keep coming to mass, and that we keep receiving the sacraments. Notice that Jesus could have just as easily filled their nets without having them go back into deep waters, but Christ wants our participation. There are days where it feels like our participation and our yes to these small asks just seems to slip through the cracks, but I promise you Jesus sees each and every one. There has not been nor will there be a single time in our lives where Jesus wasn’t thrilled to hear us pray. Today ask for the grace to be consistent in your prayer and trust that it never goes unnoticed even when it seems that we are “catching nothing”.
That was all leading up to the miracle, now let’s look at the response to it. The very first thing Simon Peter says is, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Now I imagine there is still a great deal of gratitude here as well, but this response seems to emphasize Simon’s own unworthiness more than anything. I think most of us have this same spirit of unworthiness in our faith, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think it’s bad because it’s actually quite true. We are unworthy. There is absolutely nothing that we could ever do to make God love us. That sounds harsh at first but look at how Jesus responds to this truth with Simon Peter. He doesn’t correct him. He doesn’t tell him that he’s being too hard on himself and that he is worthy, or that even though he’s unworthy right now if he works hard enough, he will be eventually. No, Jesus responds “Do not be afraid.” He tells us not be afraid because His love isn’t contingent on our actions. He knows that we will forever be unworthy but that doesn’t mean he loves us any less. If this is hard to picture think of children. In a utilitarian view, kids really don’t do anything to earn the love of their parents. Parents give them food, a place to sleep, clothes to wear, and anything else they need without expecting anything in return. I cannot think of any parents who send their 7 year olds invoices at the end of each month, yet there is no doubt that parents will continue to love. That’s what we are to God. We don’t deserve His love and His care, but that doesn’t stop Him. I challenge you to take this to prayer this week and really try and go deep with it. Where are you trying to earn His love? Is there a place that you think is so unworthy that you are scared to show him? It may take you to a place you’ve been scared to go but do not be afraid, He is already there.
Saint Peter, Pray for us!