1 Corinthians 3: 18-23
Luke 5: 1-11
The gospel story about Jesus calling Peter to be a disciple is familiar. Luke tells us the people were "pressing in" to hear the word of God. Some were there to get a healing miracle, others simply to see this famous healer who spoke with authority.
Simon Peter is off to the side, cleaning his nets after a long and failed night of fishing. He is brought into the story when Jesus climbs aboard his boat and continues his teaching. This is the beginning of a remarkable change in Peter’s life. Peter was a professional fisherman, owned his boat, had a couple partners, and earned his living on the lake. His occupation defined who he was. By Jesus stepping into Peter’s boat, the fisherman, an occupation not high in the social ladder, received an honor that perhaps raised his reputation a little higher. Who of us doesn’t feel more important when we are connected to someone famous: "I know the mayor." "I was just fifty feet from the Pope." Peter, occupied with this honor, did not recognize that Jesus was going to change his life forever.
"Peter, go out to the deep and lower your nets." Maybe we are surprised that Peter didn’t object more strongly. He was the fisherman who knew where to fish and the best time to fish. What does a carpenter, a preacher, a miracle worker know about this lake? "At your word I will do so," Peter responds; he is obedient. We don’t know why Peter went out to the lake again after a night of disappointment. Perhaps he trusted the reputation of Jesus. As Peter tossed the nets into the lake, the nets caught a huge haul of fish, so great that there was immediate need for other fishermen to help.
This incredible catch brings Peter to his knees; Peter is humbled. His first words are to tell Jesus to go away. That reaction is normal. People who are smarter, more talented or stronger than I can make me feel inadequate. We like to be king of the hill and don’t like anyone else ousting us from our hill or comfort zone. Peter sees the holiness of Jesus and his own sinfulness.
This dynamic story reminds us that a divine encounter can happen at any time and in any place. Peter was cleaning the nets when Jesus came into his life. The encounter didn’t happen at a synagogue or at the temple or when Peter was deep in prayer. The same can happen to us. We don’t need to go to a special shrine. Jesus is with us as we work at the desk, clean the dishes, wash the car, entertain friends or set up a yard sale. Are we listening?
Sometimes in our encounter with Jesus, we don’t like what we hear and we feel resistance, like Peter. But ultimately we are asked to trust Jesus, to bend our knee, see our own limitations and follow Jesus. This is not easy, but the opportunity is always there to go fishing with Jesus.
Fr. Don Webber, C.P., is Provincial Superior of Holy Cross Province and resides in Chicago.