February 8, 2004
Put Out Into Deep Waters
Today’s great story about how Jesus calls the fishermen to follow
him on the path to discipleship has three great lines which we can reflect
First, we hear how they’ve been out fishing all night on the Sea
of Galilee and they’ve caught nothing, how Jesus borrows Simon’s
boat and teaches the crowd on the shore and when he is finished, he turns
to them and says, “Put out into deep waters and lower your nets.”
That is a fantastic statement, one which we all need to ponder. Of course,
Simon Peter balks and tells how he knows all about fishing, and Jesus
couldn’t know anything, and there are no fish to be caught, but
then he gives in and does what Jesus says. In a poetic way, we probably
all feel like we’ve spent our whole lives out on the water all night
and haven’t caught anything, and along comes Jesus telling us to
put out into deep waters. That’s God, always pushing us out to go
farther than we think we can go, into the unknown, into uncharted waters.
So the question is: how is Jesus pushing you these days out into deep
waters? How are you going to respond to him?
Then, they make a big catch and both boats nearly sink because of the
great number of fish, and how does Simon Peter respond? He falls at the
knees of Jesus and says, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful
man.” There is a great mystery here. I think the Gospel is telling
us that whenever we enter into the presence of God, whenever we realize
that we are in the presence of Christ, we suddenly recognize not only
his light and holiness, but our darkness and sinfulness. So the Gospel
calls us to recognize our sinfulness before Christ, to realize that we
are sinners. But Jesus does not condemn Simon Peter or us. He loves us,
forgives us and calls us. We are sinners but we are also greatly loved
by God, and we need Christ to help us and save us. I want to change Simon
Peter’s plea to say, “Never depart from me Lord, for I am
a sinful man and I need you.”
Finally, Jesus says this great line to Peter, “Do not be afraid.
From now on, you will be catching men and women.” With that, they
leave their nets, their boats, the fish, and their parents and follow
him. Jesus says the same thing to us today. He does not want us to live
in fear. Instead he invites us to live in relationship with him, to follow
him and to join his campaign to change the world by leading one another
and all people to God and God’s reign of love and peace. So we can
ask ourselves: How are we dropping our nets and following Jesus? How do
we practice discipleship to Christ today? How are we trying to catch people
for Christ and the reign of God?
I think Jesus is the greatest person who ever lived, and he really is
worth following, that it’s worth it to drop our nets, change our
lives, and try to follow in his footsteps. It’s also critically
important that each one of us join his project of calling people to discipleship,
of catching people for Christ, of being fishers of men and women. There
are a lot of campaigns these days, from George W. Bush to John Kerry,
but the Gospel campaign of Jesus is the only one worth joining, the one
worth giving our lives for. What does it means to join the Gospel campaign
I think that in this world of hate, indifference and fear, our job is
to catch people for Christ’s love.
In this world of gossip, pettiness, hypocrisy and lies, our job is to
catch people for Christ’s truth.
In this world of enmity, resentment, grudges, revenge and the death penalty,
our job is to catch people for Christ’s compassion, forgiveness
In this world of injustice and oppression, our job is to catch people
for Christ’s justice.
In this world of selfishness and greed, our job is to catch people for
Christ’s way of selfless service.
In this world of violence and bombing raids and colonial occupation, our
job is to catch people for Christ’s nonviolence.
In this world of war, nuclear weapons, imperialism, and global Pentagon
militarism, our job is to catch people for Christ’s peace.
In this world of despair and death, our job is to catch people for Christ’s
hope, for the new life of God’s reign of resurrection. From now
on, we are catching men and women for the nonviolent Christ.
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