"DO NOT BE AFRAID; FROM NOW ON,
YOU WILL BE CATCHING MEN."
YOU WILL BE CATCHING MEN."
On this 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we witness a miraculous catch of fish which symbolizes Jesus’ mission to save mankind from the forces of evil. In every generation and community of believers, Jesus, the Divine Fisherman, continues to invite people to share in his mission of saving people from the clutches of evil in all its forms. The response to Jesus’ invitation demands dedication, generosity and perseverance.
In this Eucharist we will pray in a special manner that all those who are called to fulfill this task may respond generously and persevere faithfully till the end of their life.
Today is also “PRO-LIFE SUNDAY,” an observance which marks the beginning of “Pro-Life Week.” We are all called to appreciate and protect life. In this Eucharistic celebration let us remember with admiration and gratitude all those who are involved in the “Pro-Life Movement” which bravely opposes the numerous assaults against life.
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, Jesus 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.
PARTNERS OF THE DIVINE FISHERMAN
It must have been quite a shocking experience for seasoned fishermen like Simon (Peter) and his associates to haul in that extraordinary catch of fish. They had been toiling for it the whole night but in vain. Then, when the sun was already high, at a time when no fisherman would have hoped to get even small fry, that big catch had come which left everybody astonished! And this just because that wandering preacher from Nazareth had invited Simon to lower the nets at such an unlikely hour. . .
There was something unusual in that young preacher – some extraordinary, or even Divine Power. Simon was the first to sense it. And at the same time, he experienced what all honest souls feel in the presence of the supernatural: a deep awareness of one’s sinfulness and unworthiness. Hence the plea: “Leave me, Lord. I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). Almost eight centuries earlier, Isaiah had experienced the same feeling during the theophany he witnessed in the Temple (Is 6:5). Utter terror grips an honest person at the prospect of what an all-holy Being can do to a sinful creature.
But Jesus doesn’t enjoy terrifying people. He immediately reassures the poor Simon who is trembling at his feet. And he does more than that. The miracle he has just performed is only a beginning. It is a symbol of something far greater that will keep happening until the end of time. That miraculous catch of fish is a prophecy: Simon and his partners and their successors will share in Christ’s mission of catching men (see Lk 5:10), i.e., rescuing them from the deadly power of the forces of evil symbolized by the sea.
That miracle, then, is not just Jesus’ way of expressing his gratitude to Simon for allowing him to preach from his boat. (See Lk 5:13.) It is part of a well thought-out plan: the plan to bring God’s salvation to mankind through the cooperation of frail and sinful creatures like Simon Peter himself and his associates; people like the Pope and the Bishops; people like you and me.
The miraculous “catch,” i.e., the salvation of men, goes on throughout the world, century after century, in spite of the inadequacy of the fishermen. It goes on because it is the work of God’s power; the work of God’s love and trust. In spite of His omnipotence and holiness, He does not disdain to avail Himself of our defective cooperation.
We are all in the saving boat of the Church. We all share in the salvation wrought by Christ. But we also share in the mission of helping Jesus to save others, for, thanks to him, we, too, have become “life-savers,” under the guidance of Simon Peter, the master of the fleet of God’s rescue team.