Meditation of the week

An offer of freedom

Luke 5,1-11.

The crowds pressed round Jesus because of his powerful works and authoritative teaching. He has already healed a demoniac, and Peter’s mother in law of fever, and at sunset, he healed many who suffered from all sorts of diseases.  Immediately preceding today’s gospel reading, Jesus speaks about the urgency of preaching the kingdom of God.

One day he sees two boats close to the shore of the Sea of Galilee – the fishermen out of them, washing their nets. He gets into Peter’s boat, asks him to move a little from the shore and then sits down and teaches the crowds from the boat.

The miraculous draught of fish which follows immediately after Jesus teaching is recorded only in Luke’s gospel. At Jesus’ suggestion of paying out the nets for a catch, Peter mentions their wasted night just spent, but at Jesus’ say so he casts out the nets.  Both boats are filled to sinking point.

The overawed Peter falls on his knees and begs Jesus to depart from him, unworthy sinner that he is.  Peter’s companion as well as James and John are equally awed by the experience. Jesus calls them to be fishers of men and they leave everything and follow him.

Peter and his companions were relatively wealthy, owning their own boats, and fish was always a saleable commodity, giving a good living. They left all their wealth behind them, their families, friends, and the comforts of life.  How much does your following the Lord cost you?  What have you given up? To make sacrifices, to voluntarily give up things that we have a right to have and use is something all the saints did, and we too are encouraged to do the same.   Making our sacrifices for some specific purpose or intention gives them a real meaning and purpose.

Peter’s call involved his obedience to the Lord’s command to cast out his nets; a miraculous sign from God; a deep consciousness of his own sinfulness; the feeling of his unworthiness to be in Jesus’ presence; the command not to be afraid; and then the commission.  Because of his sinfulness he wanted separation from Jesus – a normal human reaction to sin. Jesus, instead, offers freedom from fear and closeness to him – to follow him. Very often these patterns arise in our own faith story, less dramatically perhaps, but no less real.  Which stage are you at?

In the three readings in today’s Mass we meet Isaiah, Paul and Peter. A shared striking feature of all three is the deep realization each of them had of their own sinfulness and their unworthiness to do God’s work.  With God’s initiative and invitation, they move on from their sense of sinfulness and accept God’s call and trust in his grace.   Trusting in God’s forgiveness and His help, they did his work with his help. There is a pattern there for each of us to follow as there was for countless saints down the ages, as for example:  Sts. Augustine, Patrick, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Margaret of Cortona to mention but a few great sinners who became great saints.

Jesus called Peter from his fishing. He calls each of us to follow him from where we are in our lives. Whatever our gifts are, they are the centres from which Jesus calls us to be his disciples of love.

Fr Geoff O’Grady