6 September, 2018: Cast out into the Deep

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Thursday of the Twenty Second Week in Ordinary Time

R1: 1 Cor. 3: 18-23; Gospel: Luke 5:1-11

In the gospel today, we are told that Jesus was standing by the shore of Lake Gennesaret. Because of the large crowds pressing in on him to hear the word of God, Jesus was forced to borrow one of two boats moored near the shore where their owners were washing their nets.

“He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon” and “remaining seated, he continued to teach the crowds from the boat”. By preaching from the boat Jesus could avoid the pressure of the crowd and yet be close enough to speak to them. It is a simple, straightforward statement and yet there is a symbolism here. Jesus gets into Simon’s boat and teaches from it. The boat, in the Gospel, is frequently a symbol of the church community. It is very meaningful to say that Jesus stepped into that boat that it was Peter’s boat, and that he taught from there. It is a symbol of what is to come in the near future. Now comes the lesson and the revelation. At the end of the teaching, Simon is told to go out into the deep water and start fishing. “Master, we have been hard at it all night long and have caught nothing; but if you say so, I will lower the nets.” There is here something of the condescension of the expert towards the amateur. “We know there are no fish there but, just to make you happy, we’ll let down the nets.”

But their nets were hardly in the water when they were so full of fish that they were on the point of breaking. They had to call their companions in the other boat to come to their help. But the two boats together were now so full of fish that they were on the point of sinking. Peter, just now so arrogant and all-knowing, is totally overcome. He knew there were no fish there. So there was only one explanation. The man standing before him was someone very special: “Go away from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” It is the reaction of a person in the awful presence of God’s overwhelming power and goodness.

So the disciples heard the message, they accepted the call and “with that they brought their boats to land, left everything, and become his followers”. In Luke’s gospel especially, the following of Jesus is understood as absolute – one must leave everything and throw in one’s lot totally with Jesus wherever that will lead. Those boats and nets were the security on which the lives of Peter, his companions and their families depended. But they left them and everything else. This is faith, this is trust. Without it, the mission cannot succeed.

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