HENCEFORTH YOU WILL BE CATCHING MEN
(A biblical reflection on the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time [Year C], 10 February 2019)
Gospel Reading: Luke 5:1-11
First Reading: Isaiah 6:1-2a,3-8; Psalms: Psalm 138:1-5,7-8; Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (or 1 Corinthians 15:3-8,11)
The Scripture Text
While the people pressed upon Him 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 Simon’s, 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 worth 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. (Luke 5:1-11 RSV)
Today’s Gospel contains one of the best known stories in the New Testament. After preaching to the crowd on shore while drifting in shallow water in Peter’s boat, Jesus tells Peter to throw his net overboard. Peter does as Jesus says but he doesn’t expect to catch anything. To his surprise, the net fills with so many fish he needs help hauling it in. Peter and his friends then leave their boats and follow Jesus.
Fishing and fishermen have played an important role in the history of Christianity. Some of the twelve apostles were fishermen (Matthew 4:18, Luke 5:6-9, and John 21:3). Although Peter and his partners immediately left everything and followed Jesus, we should not conclude this means they gave up fishing completely. On one occasion, Jesus tells Peter to cast a line into the sea. Peter then finds a coin to pay the Temple tax for himself and Jesus (Matthew 17:27). In another incident, the apostles are in the upper room when Peter announces he is going fishing. A few of the other apostles join him and, while they are in their boats, the resurrected Jesus appears to them (John 21:1-14). These passages suggest the apostles were active fishermen even while they were Jesus’ disciples.
A fish also became an early symbol of Christianity because Greek was the most common language in the Roman Empire and the letters of the Greek word for fish are i-c-h-t-u-s. These are the same letters that begin the Greek words for “Jesus Christ”, God’s Son, Savior” (iesous christos theou huios soter).
The early Christians hung an anchor, another fishing-related symbol, on the door of the houses where they gathered to celebrate the Eucharist. Because it resembled a cross, this secret symbol identified a place where the followers of Jesus could meet to pray and to hear the Word of the Lord.
Peter left his boat behind and followed Jesus because Jesus was even more important to him than his job. What are the three most important things in your life? Does anything ome before Jesus?
(Adapted from Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 278-279.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You accept us all, just as we are. We are sinners, Lord. Cleanse our sin and empower us with Your presence. Here we are, Lord! Send us! Empower us to participate in catching other people for Your Kingdom! Teach us to speak Your words and minister Your love to everyone we meet. Amen.
Jakarta, 9 February 2019
A Christian Pilgrim