February 10, 2019
by Tom Shanahan, S.J.
Creighton University's Athletic Department
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 75

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

Praying Ordinary Time


Today’s gospel is a kind of biblical “fish story”, containing an important point for us to contemplate.  Normally, fish stories deal with things like the big Northern Pike that got away right at the end of an enormous struggle by the stout fisherman (“must have been over a yard and a half long!!”).  Almost in the boat, the huge fish snaps free of the hook and swims off!  Once again, the wily Northern trumps the skilled fisher person who now had a tale to be told with great delight later.

The disciples in the gospel story today have spent the whole night “toiling and had caught nothing."  As professional fishermen, they must have been disappointed.  Fishing in the right places at the right time, they should have seen big results from their labors; but no!  Still, now they had a tale to tell afterwards, but the story had much deeper implications for them and for others.

Jesus had been preaching to the crowd and, because of their great number, they crowded him further towards the waters of the Sea of Galilee.  To alleviate the situation, Jesus stepped into Simon’s boat and asked him to go out a bit from the shore.  There he preached to the people from the boat in the shallow waters.  Afterwords, he turned to Simon, “go out into the deep water and lower the nets for a catch”.

Simon the pro fisherman, must have resisted the request because he had just done battle with the sea and had caught nothing.  But this “fish story” had a much fuller meaning soon to be discovered: they caught a great number of fishes so that their nets were bursting. 

In astonishment they call to their companions in another boat to come and help them contain their enormous catch.  Simon falls to his knees before Jesus and announces, “depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  To this proclamation Jesus reply promises, “do not be afraid from now on you will be catching people.”

What stands out in the story is a two-fold blessing Jesus invites the fishermen to notice., captured by the words out into the deep and do not be afraid. Going out into the “deep” implies not simply the deeper waters of the Lake, but so much more.  For the disciples, and us the “deep” is a metaphor for things greater than the depth of the sea; it’s an invitation to throw one’s whole self into the call Jesus sends out to the fishermen.  That call is extended as a blessing to all faithful Christians from the disciples’ time to our present day.

The “do not be afraid” message is much more than simply a consoling word Jesus says to his special new set of friends.  Afraid of what?  It doesn’t matter!  The point is that Jesus is with us (along with Simon and his pals).  Ultimately, we need not be afraid since Jesus’ promise will make all the difference in the world.

Our call into service is a call to trust in Jesus’ promise, that despite my status paralleling Simon Peter’s “I am a sinful man,” I too am invited to give in to following him more closely.  What a joy!  We are fishers “of people” like the disciples.  Might this be the ultimate “fish story?”

Thank you, Lord for your care and love of us as you call us to service like yours.  We are abundantly blessed by your invitation.  We count on your promise and our desire to receive your call.  That promise is your way of loving and serving us –be with us as we serve others in imitating you.

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