Gospel Reflection Feb 6 – Sr. Teresa
Sunday, February 6
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Luke 5: 1-11
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
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.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
I don’t like it when someone, who knows little to nothing about what I am doing, feels they can give me advice. I have to admit I can get uppity about it. Yet, in today’s gospel, we have just such a situation. Jesus, telling ‘professional’ fishermen how to fish.
There are a few metaphors in the reading that help to break open the word for us. In scripture the sea represents life. Jesus gets into a boat and teaches from there. Jesus is in the midst of life and from there teaches the people on the shore. The people standing on the edge of life trying to decide if they will get into life or just be “life observers.”
“He (Jesus) saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.” Jesus sees the fishermen going about their everyday life. They had spent the night fishing, with no success and now were washing the nets so they will be ready for the next night to do exactly what they had done this night. Jesus often steps into our lives while we are going about our everyday life, AND sometimes we pay attention. He steps in to cause an interruption to comfort, shake things up, challenge, console or whatever we might need at the time – AND sometimes we pay attention.
Peter and the others were expert fishermen. Nothing in scripture gives us the idea that Jesus knew too much about the fishing industry. Yet he is telling the “experts” to go out into the deep; to throw their nets to the other side; to take a risk by doing something different. Jesus invites them to break their usual way of doing things and take a risk with something new. Amazingly, Peter does it.
Often we don’t really like to go out into the deep. We like staying more towards the shallow side. It is safer and we have more control. We might take risks but usually they are very well calculated risks. We do what we know and sometimes are successful and sometimes we come up empty. Yet, we keep doing the familiar, the comfortable, “the safe” rather than risk doing something new or different. Yet today the scripture offers a new invitation: to go out into the deep. We are challenged to get deeply involved in life and be willing to take a risk. Jesus tells the fishermen and us, Throw the nets to the other side. Risk stepping out of our comfort zone. Risk breaking the pattern of how we always do things.
Doesn’t this sound like what is happening in our world today? How many times have we heard, “we want to get back to normal.” Usually meaning we want to get back to doing things just like we had been doing them before COVID. We want the familiar ways of doing things; the familiar ways of acting and relating to others. However, if we do that, I think we will have missed the blessing of COVID, which has given us an invitation to be and act differently than we have in the past. We are invited to go out into the deep by moving away from the shore, away from the safety of the shallow part of life and get more involved in the deeper meaning of life and relationships. To cast our nets to the other side and live our lives differently, with a focus more on the common good than the toxicity of extreme individualism.
Lastly, let’s consider Peter’s words, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” At first this seems to make Peter look so humble. I wondered about that for a long time, and I am not so sure it is so humble. I wonder if it is an excuse. In one way you want to say, “No kidding, Sherlock, we are all sinful.” It is not surprising information. I wonder if it is said to excuse us from risking — to excuse us from going out into the deep in following Jesus. I know what I mean when I say it but what about you?
Will you go out into the deep parts of life?
Will you risk doing things differently from the way you usually do them? Are you excusing yourself of acting by declaring “you are a sinner and not worthy?” Is it a way of keeping Jesus at arm’s length or keeping Jesus from expecting too much from me??
Maybe you will be content to stand with the crowd on the seashore. Maybe you prefer to be part of the crowd that just looks out at life but never really gets too involved.
Don’t answer too quickly or too glibly because they are not easy questions and call for a recommitment to follow Jesus.
–Sister Teresa Tuite, OP