Don’t be afraid to ‘put out into the deep’
By Dawn Comissiong
Today’s gospel reading stirs our imagination. Simon Peter, tired after a whole night spent fishing on the Lake of Gennesaret is dispirited because he had caught nothing.
Hearing the compelling voice of Jesus preaching the Word of God on the lakeside nearby, Simon must have stood there with his eyes on his work, cleaning and washing his nets.
Jesus gets into Simon’s empty boat drawn up onto the bank, in order to teach better from that vantage point as the crowds keep pressing round Him. At His request, Simon pushes the boat out a little from the shore so Jesus could be more visible to His eager listeners as He goes on preaching from the boat.
Luke tells a story well. Some of the most vivid writing in the New Testament is from his pen. This story of the calling of Jesus’ first disciples is one of the evangelist’s finest efforts. In Luke 5: 1–11, we get one of the clearest, most endearing pictures of Simon Peter in the gospels.
When Jesus was finished teaching, He calls out to Simon: “Put out into the deep and pay out your nets for a catch”. Now, before this lakeside incident in his gospel, Luke had described for his readers the miracle in Simon’s house where Jesus had healed Simon’s mother-in-law, sick in bed with a raging fever (Lk 4:38–39). Simon had witnessed it. So, he was able to answer frankly, “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets”.
As Simon obeys Jesus, Luke tells us of the excitement of that huge catch of fish they netted, so big that their nets began to tear, and they had to signal to their partners James and John in their boat to come and help bring in the catch.
Luke quietly notes the outcome: “They filled both boats to sinking point.” The evangelist records Simon’s reaction, with a beautiful pen-portrait of Simon Peter falling at Jesus’ knees, “awestruck at the catch they had made…’Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man’.”
Simon expressed his wonder and awe, and his feeling of unworthiness before the power of Jesus. But it is the response of Jesus that echoes and resonates in the ears of all of us, His disciples: “Do not be afraid, from now on it is people you will be catching.”
Jesus is saying the same words to us now. When we are apprehensive that our puny efforts at sharing the Good News of salvation to others will not succeed, we hear these words of encouragement, too. “Go on, put out into the deep. Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.”
The climax of this story of the call of those first disciples – Simon Peter, James and John – is their total abandon of everything in order to follow Jesus. Luke concludes his tale: “Then bringing their boats back to land they left everything and followed him.”
An inspiring tale for each of us. We yearn to follow Jesus totally, with the same willingness and eagerness of these fishermen. They abandoned everything – belongings, home, family and friends, familiar work – and launched out into the deep of the unknown when Jesus called them to be fishers of men.
Lord Jesus, I desire to be Your true follower. Infuse me with the same enthusiastic response of that first group of disciples you called by the lakeside. Take away from me my fear of the unknown and my feeling that I am not worthy to serve You like they did.
Help me to keep my eyes on Simon Peter as he knelt at Your feet and confessed his inadequacy. Yet You called him to follow You, promising him: “From now on, it is people you will catch”.
Thank You, Jesus; I believe Your promise is for me, too. With the help of Your Holy Spirit may I be Your faithful fisher of men from now on. Amen.
The gospel reflections for February are by Dawn Comissiong of the Eternal Light Community currently assisting the Sacred Heart, Delaford parish.