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The call of Simon the fisherman

Gospel reading: Lk 5:1-11
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, he 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 they 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.

Put out into deep water
Luke patterns the call of Simon to a prophetic call, like the call of Isaiah (Is 6:1-8). Granted a “vision” of something grand and divine, both figures see themselves as “sinners” unworthy to be in the presence of the Lord.

Isaiah calls himself “a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips,” while Peter kneels before Jesus and begs him, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (v 8). But confessing one’s sinfulness does not lead to despair or helplessness. Greater than one’s fear is the attraction of the divine. The Lord is mysterium tremendum ac fascinosum – a tremendous, fearful mystery, yet also a fascinating one. So the vision that begins in fear ends up in “following” and “being sent.” Isaiah is sent a prophet to Israel, while Peter – along with his companions – is tasked to be a “fisher of men.”

“ ‘Duc in altum – Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.’ These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence” (St. John Paul II).

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