February 6, 2022
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 75

Isaiah 6:1-2a, 3-8
Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 7-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 OR 15:3-8, 11
Luke 5:1-11

Praying Ordinary Time

As I write this, last Sunday's liturgy’s Gospel presented Jesus’ changing water into wine, miraculous and a sign of how Jesus would do even more amazing things. Today’s Gospel is such of a more amazing transformation. Jesus is changing a man of the water into a man of the earth; a fisher-man into a fisher for humanity. As with many of the persons God has called and Jesus has invited, Peter has a comfortable excuse for his returning to the waters.

Peter must have been a good catcher of fish. He had partners, a boat and nets. For Luke’s literary purpose, Peter and pals came up fishless which forms the occasion for a fishful netting which certainly did catch Peter’s attention. Peter confronts an unusual power and this unfamiliarity frightens him so Jesus invites him not to be afraid. Jesus does not say anything more, but Peter is moved to say something truer than he really knows.

Luke has two other passages where persons find their prayer-place at the feet of Jesus. There is the man who tortured himself in the tombs in chapter eight and Mary, the sister of Martha, sits there relaxing and reflecting on the words of Jesus in Luke’s tenth chapter. So Peter asks Jesus to depart, because he, himself, knows he is a sinful man, besides not being a very good fisherman that day. Jesus’ silence calms Peter and is the beginning of the water-to-land transformation.

We, as with Peter, find comfort in the familiar. The change in Peter is not that he will no longer be a “sinful man”, but by his leaving all to follow Jesus, he will more discover the deep truth of his being a man of the earth and yet not defined nor confined by this awareness. He will be positioned to be more available to his being loved. As with the demoniac and Martha’s sister, Peter will allow the relationship with Jesus to free himself for a more compassionate and generous relationship with himself.

Guilt, about being sinful, can be a comfortable excuse for us to avoid intimacy which Jesus offers. We can say to ourselves, “The more distant I stay away from Him, the less I will feel guilty and so freer.” That is a good one and I have experienced it myself, but it doesn’t work so peacefully. Self-pride mingles with the sense of guilt. “I do not want to raise expectations and hopes for myself and then I can merely stay inside the waters of isolation won’t reveal my truth of myself to myself nor anyone else.”

Peter was in a shallow spot near the shore. Jesus finds him there and invites him to go deeper and there’s the fear and yet the fullness. Firstly, Jesus encounters Peter and thereby Peter encounters Peter more deeply, who then encounters Jesus, who then invites Peter to begin the process of his being transformed from the water to his attracting others, us, to walk with Jesus in His mission of transforming the earth. “Be not afraid of Him nor yourself.” 

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