Be Not Afraid
During the ministry of Jesus St. Luke recounts a moment when Jesus and St. Peter converse about how to catch fish. As you recall, before St. Peter followed Jesus, he was by trade, a fisherman. You may also recall before Jesus started his public ministry; he was a carpenter. The backgrounds of both make today’s reading all the more interesting and the contrast reveals an embedded meaning for everyone.
Luke tells us, Jesus embarks on a boat and begins to teach the people on the shore about the Kingdom of God. As he was teaching, the fisherman had already returned to shore with no catch and were in the process of cleaning their nets. When Jesus had finished his teaching, he asked Peter to go out again on Lake Gennesaret with the only instruction of letting down his nets again in the deep water.
After trying for hours with no luck, a fisherman like Peter was incredulous of the request, but did as Jesus had requested. Much to his surprise the nets were filled with so many fish it filled two boats. Peter immediately fell to his knees and was reassured by Jesus to stop being afraid, for he needed to begin to catch men. From that moment, Jesus and the other disciples left everything and followed him.
What it Means to Leave Our Old Lives and Follow Jesus
The deeper meaning of the interaction between Jesus and Peter touches on basic human reactions when one encounters God. For those who have been believers from birth, stories such as our today have been heard over and over again, yet those words have never taken healthy root. Of course, we believe in the words of Jesus to some extent, but have failed to incorporated them fully.
Why is this so?
For most people the notion of going into the “deep water” of life is something which rarely happens. With the modern definition of freedom, a person thinks he is an expert about himself without the need to let God lead or instruct him about himself. If however, the “deep water” part of a person’s life becomes problematic, then any introspection and reflection is something explainable by psychology and not theology. No mistake, it is a lot easier to find a cause of a problem from a sterile pseudo-scientific approach rather than a personal accounting. The former absolves me from my sin and appropriates the disorder to nature which can level no moral charge against me.
If on the other hand, a person enters the “deep water” of his life and finds an emptiness, faith leads him to trust throwing in the nets again. Sometimes the first throw has produced nothing. Faith encourages a second throw with a promise of a great catch.
Patience is not a characteristic of the modern person. Our whole life now is about expediency. Everything we want and need must be produced immediately. Our time is the greatest commodity we own. But our time is not God’s time. In numerous ways, faith always teaches patience from delaying gratification to hoping our lives are taken up to heaven when our days on earth have ended.
But for those who hope and wait for the catch, the divine outpouring is overwhelming. Peter’s response to Jesus is the only reply to such abundance. How dwarfed we all are in the immensity of God and his providence. But rather than fixating on the difference between the divine greatness the smallness of his creatures, Jesús tells us to “be not afraid”.
When our fear has been taken away through Jesus, we have been caught in the depths of our life and are now ready to drop everything and follow him.