One day, as Jesus stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, with a crowd gathered around him listening to the word of God, he caught sight of two boats left at the water’s edge by the fishermen now washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to pull out a little from the shore. There he sat and continued to teach the crowd.
When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon replied, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will lower the nets.” This they did and caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats almost to the point of sinking.
Upon seeing this, Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and his companions were amazed at the catch they had made and so were Simon’s partners, James and John, Zebedee’s sons.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. You will catch people from now on.” So they brought their boats to land and followed him, leaving everything.
In today’s gospel reading, we see that, even though Peter is a sinner, Jesus makes an apostle of him. Our sins, when they are humbly confessed, do not drive Jesus away from us. Only pharisaism, the conviction of being holy and above reproach before God draws up an insurmountable barrier between God and his creature.
In this gospel passage we hear Simon say to Jesus: “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing.” The same temptation of discouragement threatens us many times. We are then on the point of giving up. Yet perhaps we are only minutes away from a miraculous catch of fish! Let us therefore listen to the voice of Christ telling us to put out into deep water: keep on going, start again!
This narrative reminds us of the peculiar conditions in which apostleship is exercised in the Church. When Jesus was not with Peter, Peter did not catch anything; but from the moment that he took Jesus on board, he caught a great many fish. This is an example illustrating the truth that, without Jesus, we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). But, with his help, anything is possible. As Paul says, “I can do anything in him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).
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