Today’s gospel passage gives us an idea of the call to discipleship. Faith and obedience are essentials in this apostolate. Jesus was at the Sea of Galilee preaching to a large crowd who did not leave him enough room to preach. He got into Simon’s fishing boat and continued preaching to the crowd. Why did He choose Simon’s boat?
Let’s look at Simon’s day. After a long night of fishing, the fishermen had nothing to show for their all their work. They were tired from all the physical work. Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee used nets, often bell-shaped with lead weights around the edges. The net would be thrown flat onto the water, and the lead weights would cause the nets to sink around the fish. Then the fishermen would pull on a cord, drawing the net around the fish. The nets have to be kept in really good condition.
They had to be washed to remove the weeds and dirt. They had to be mended if they were torn or broken. It had not been a good day for Simon and his companions. However Jesus had other plans. When He finished preaching to the crowd on the boat, he told Simon to pull out to deep water and to put down the nets for a catch. Simon’s first response to our Lord was to tell Him that they had been working all night and had caught nothing. The night hours were their normal time of fishing. He must be wondering what was the point of fishing by day when the night produced no fish at all. However, Simon’s surprising response to Jesus, “but if you say so, I will put out the nets” tells us a story of how Jesus enlists Simon as a helper in the spread of His kingdom.
Although they are tired and although it is not a man of the sea who gives the order, and although it is not the right time of the day for fishing, the fishermen pull out to deep water and lower their nets, out of obedience. This brings us to our present day situation. We are sometimes bogged down by work, by worries. We want to rest and repair our tired bodies. Nothing else matters! The question as to why we should obey the Lord comes up again and again especially when it makes no apparent sense.
In the apostolate, faith and obedience goes hand in hand. Of what use are our efforts if God does not have a hand in it. Even the most worthwhile of our efforts would be in vain. The fishermen completed the task they were told to do. What a surprise it was when they hauled up their nets to a great shoal of fish! Simon Peter was awestruck at this miracle and his response was to feel his own insignificance, his inadequacy. Simon Peter fell on his knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Our Lord calls each of us to be His messengers, whether we are sitting in an office, driving a taxi, working in a high position, a student or simply a homemaker, He calls all of us to be His instruments to spread His love to a world that seems to turn its back on Him. Jesus does not extend a formal invitation to discipleship, but says simply, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will be catching men” (Lk 5:10). God takes the initiative. Just like he chose Simon Peter, He also chooses us His faithful and calls us to do His will. Jn 15:16 says “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Are we like Simon Peter, who pondered but who reacted quickly and followed the order given to him? Or are we feeling unworthy to be used as God’s instruments? The 1st reading tells the story of the call of Isaiah, who protested, “What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man with unclean lips.” Both Isaiah and Simon Peter felt the magnitude of their unworthiness in the presence of God.
Both protested but proved faithful to the call. Mother Mary was the first to be called to discipleship. She was frightened and yet she responded “Be it done unto me according to thy word” (Lk 1:38). Abraham, a man of faith, was called by God to leave his land to a place where he knows not where. Abraham obeyed and went as the Lord directed him. Do we have faith like Mary and Abraham, to name a few, to leave everything and to put our trust in God to lead us where we dare not thread? Our Lord has chosen all of us – some of us with a specific vocation – to follow Him, to imitate Him and to carry on in the world the work of His redemption. Are we ready to take up this challenge even in the most difficult moments?
There are two requirements in responding to God. Like Simon Peter, we must first recognize our own sinful state. We must also realize that we cannot work without the help of God. If we realize that Jesus is the only one who can help us, we will be willing to leave everything and follow Him. We are unworthy but God will use our unworthiness for His glory. Jesus calls us to be fishers-of-men. Are we heeding His call? Do we want to plunge right into deep water – into friendship with Him, into holiness, into carrying out His apostolate. If the answer is Yes, He will fill us with His strength and He will give us the grace to carry out His plan for our lives. Let us be constantly alert to recognize Christ’s face in the realities of life which surrounds us, because He is very near to us and He alone is able to give meaning to all the things that we do.
By Margie Choo
Questions for Reflection
Are we ready like Mary to say ‘Be it done unto me according to thy word”?
Can we be obedient like Simon Peter?
Will we allow God to work miracles in and through us?