5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. February 7, 2016.
Is 6:1-2,3-8; 1Cor 15:1-11; Lk 5:1-11
St. Peter shares His vocation story
It is a late Tuesday morning. I am a professional fisherman. I have been fishing all night with my buddies who are also experienced fishermen but we caught nothing. How do I feel? I feel frustrated. I am washing my nets now thinking of how I am going to meet my financial responsibilities. My relatives are in need of financial help and I have lots of bills to pay. Besides, my mother in law is also sick at home. I mutter to myself in frustration, “Silly fishes! Why no catch today?”
Then I hear a crowd approaching me, led by that Prophet from Nazareth. I have heard about Him and His teaching and miracles. My response to the news about Him? “Whatever!” And right now I am definitely not in the mood for any of that “God” talk or “Kingdom of God” stuff. I like to be real and practical, dealing with what is on hand like bills to pay and responsibilities to be met. I continue to wash my nets wishing that they will just pass by and leave me in peace. Peace? What is that? For me, peace is when things go my way and the fishes cooperate! I do not ask for too much in life.
Someone calls out to me from the crowd, “Jesus is sitting in your boat.” What? For goodness sake, there are two boats there. Why did He choose to sit in my own boat? I am really getting more frustrated now.
Then someone else calls out to me, “Jesus is asking you to come and put out a little bit from the shore so that He can teach the crowds from your boat.” That is the last straw. I shout back angrily, “He can have my boat. My paddles are in there and He can use them too. Just leave me alone!” I mutter to myself, “If He can enter my boat without my consent, He can also paddle the boat without me, right?” I continue to wash my nets.
Then I look up. He is coming towards me. I look at Him and I feel ashamed of my earlier response. He says to me, “Come and put out to shore a little so that I can teach the crowd from your boat.” He does not seem to give up. I mutter something about Him being free to have my boat and letting someone else paddle the boat because I am not just in the mood now. I try to keep my frustration subdued.
His next words hit me hard. He said to me, “I want you more than I want your boat, your nets or your paddle.” I am hooked now. People always wanted me for what I do or for what I have to offer. This Prophet from Nazareth wants me just as I am. I follow Him and dump my partially watched nets in the boat. I put out a little from the shore as He teaches the crowd from my boat.
For the very first time, I actually listened to the gracious words that fall from His lips. Sitting in that boat and not being able to cast my nets, I have nothing else to do, right? But something is happening to me and the crowds as we listen to His words.
I look at the faces of the people in the crowd. I recognize only a few of them. They are faces from all over the world with many frustrations too and broken dreams. They have on their brows the pains that come from sin, addictions, broken relationships, grieving the death of loved ones, unemployment, sickness, abuse, rejection, etc. But as they listen to His words, I see hope glistening in their eyes and strength being renewed in them.
There is something definitely unique about this Prophet’s words and their effects on the hearers and on myself. I must confess that my frustrations are being to recede and some form of peace is emerging. I never taught of peace apart from a huge catch of fish! And most importantly, I am sort of touched that He is making use of my poor dingy boat to touch lives. If He can use this my worn out boat to bring so much good to the world, how much more can He do if I give myself over to Him. Oops! I must be careful now. I do not want to get carried away. I am only a fisherman. There is no way that this man will want anything to do with me after His preaching is over.
My mind then wanders briefly away from His powerful words and I start thinking of my beloved issue – fishes in my net, bills settled and responsibilities met. How I wished I could get some of those ocean creatures in my net in my next fishing mission. Besides, I must not forget those major responsibilities to be met.
The Prophet stops speaking, turns to me and says, “Put out in the deep and lower your nets for a catch.” What? This man is beginning to spook me out. How did He know about my desire for fish and what I was preoccupied with even as He spoke? What does He care about fishing? I thought He was all about the kingdom of God and all that stuff. I begin to believe more His earlier words to me, “I want you more than I want your boat.” Can it be true as He says that His heavenly Father cares for me so much that even the hair on my head are numbered?
I agree to put out in the deep and cast the net as He has requested. I cannot believe the catch of fish. My other companions are giggling with excitement. I am too stunned to speak. Looking at the fishes, the things that I always wanted and desired in life, numerous and lying at my feet, I found myself strangely saying to myself, “Is this it?” I thought I would be happier and more satisfied with such a huge catch.
Something else comes to my mind. I recall the moments when I hardened my heart to the Prophet’s words, when I scoffed at the message of the Kingdom which He makes present, and when I took His love for granted. I recall the moments when I let my frustrations get the better of me. I realize that this is no ordinary Prophet who performs miracles once in a while. There is something definitely more than mere human here.
I cannot understand how I feel in His presence. But I just feel like the Prophet Isaiah who had a vision of God and could only exclaim, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” That is the closest I can think of to describe my experience. I feel utterly unworthy of His love, His presence and His gifts. I cry out to Him from the depths of my heart, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” I feel moved to relate with Him with the reverence that belongs to deity alone.
I was expecting to hear Him respond, “Oh sorry. I did not know that you were a sinful man. I made a mistake in getting into your boat then in the first place. Thanks for the information. Have a good day.” But no; instead He smiled at me with a twinkle in His eyes as if He had been waiting for that my response all along. He then said to me, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men.”
“Catching men.” What the heck does that mean? I have no idea what that means? I hope that men are not more stubborn than fishes!
We arrive on the shore. My fishing buddies excitedly divide the catch among themselves. But now I have other things on my mind – following this Prophet and “catching men” whatever that means. One of my buddies calls out to me, “Where are you going? We have enough fish for all of us here. Don’t you want your share?”
He is right. I always dreamt about a day like this in my fishing career. But now that I have this catch of fish, I have found that I was made for something more than meeting responsibilities and paying bills. I have found that I was made to be in communion with this man whom I have encountered today. He gave me what I wanted most in life and I discovered that I wanted something more – I wanted Him. I was made for this man whose words dispels darkness and leads me to the deep where I have never thought I could ever face again. He is greater than all the things that frustrate me and He is greater than my sins that take away my peace. I have found Him and I will follow Him now till the end of time by His grace.
Maybe you can identify with my vocation story. Maybe you can identify with my frustrations in seeking for peace in my own way. Maybe you can connect with my shock at knowing that Jesus Christ has chosen you out of all people to follow Him as a religious or priest or called you to a particular form of Christian witness.
Maybe you can identify with having a sense of unworthiness in sensing a divine call to leave all and follow Christ and you are not sure what that means or would entail on your side. Maybe you are humbled to see how much God can touch others through your response to His call. Maybe you are thinking that you do not have what it takes to say a wholehearted yes to Him.
I understand what you are going through. Please, just pause and hear Him say to you, “I want you more than I want your talents and gifts.” I believed those words then and He made me a fisher of men and He even built His Church on me. I pray that you too will believe those words and follow Him today, tomorrow and forever. Peace is waiting for you because He is indeed bigger than all your frustrations.
Your beloved brother in vocation,
St. Peter the Apostle.