Written by Michael Fones
Wednesday, 31 January 2007 21:17
This Sunday's Gospel contains the call of the first disciples, so I thought I might offer a reflection on it in light of the theme of this blog.
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 the boats 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.
Why would Jesus choose Simon as his first disciple? Why choose a man who, a few years down the road, will deny him? In the Gospels – at least prior to the resurrection, Simon lives up to the name, "Rock" once – when he sinks like one while trying to join Jesus in a stroll on the sea.
Perhaps Simon is called by Jesus because Simon is just like us. Or we are just like him. He's a working-class stiff, not so sophisticated or insightful or successful or holy that we can't identify with him – not if we get to know him in the scriptures instead of through our heroic stained glass depictions of him.
Moreover, he's inept enough that it's clear that the foundation of the Church is held in place by the power and grace of Jesus. When we get to know this fisherman with empty nets, we find a critique of our success-oriented culture. Simon needs Jesus to do what Simon himself couldn't. Simon couldn't hold the group of disciples together on his own! His own lack of credentials shows us what great things Jesus can do with a not-too-promising individual.
I've always heard Jesus' prediction, "From now on you will be catching men" to indicate that Simon was still going to be doing the fishing. But perhaps Simon's just the lure Jesus the real fisherman is using to catch us! What if Simon's just a bit of bait Jesus dangles before us, inviting us to let go of the empty nets we carefully clean each day, so that we can become his disciples, too? We see Simon's fumbling attempts to follow Jesus and can feel less self-conscious about our own failings. If we take the call of Simon seriously, we might begin to realize that discipleship isn't about being perfect, having all the answers, or even knowing all the doctrines. It's about grasping the knees of the one we're not worthy of, and rejoicing that he's chosen us anyway, and thus living in daily gratitude. It's about knowing that we can't do anything without Him, but with Him, we can do anything! We look at the Church, with its 1 billion plus members, and draw comfort that if God could make Simon a foundation for that, He might do something worthwhile with us if we surrender to Him.