NOTE: This Thursday post begins a new schedule. Thursdays will see comments on the upcoming Gospel text for the coming Sunday. Monday will see essays on a wider range of topics. Peace.
A Call Story with a twist
This coming Sunday’s Gospel text, Luke 5:1-11, is a call story with a bit of a twist. It is similar, of course, to the call story in Matthew and in Mark, yet it adds some elements that those passages do not. Namely it places the call of Simon, and James and John in the context of Jesus teaching publicly. This seems important because for many of us this is how we experience our Lord, via hearing the Word. It seems all so human for these soon to be Apostles to encounter Jesus in this way, which is, I suspect the point.
Also, this passage shows us these fishermen witnessing God’s power via the large catch that Jesus tells them is out there waiting to be swept up in their net. This too points to the very public nature of Jesus’ ministry. I would suggest that the large catch is really an eschatological point rather than one about economic abundance. God can indeed provide any kind of abundance, but this point is about an eternal abundance in relationship with God. Simon’s actions here are driven by trust in Jesus, even though he has fished this area and caught nothing, he believes in Jesus.
Jesus as Caller
As the acts of God’s power point to a larger eschatological point, it is important to recognize that the point is, Jesus has the authority to call forth God’s power and to call forth disciples to spread the Word. Jesus speaks and the net is full; Jesus speaks, and the Apostles believe and act accordingly. This points to a fundamental article of faith for believers; what Jesus says is true. Simon knows Jesus speaks truth, so he drops his net again. Then Jesus states that now Simon will fish for men and Simon believes Jesus again. If Jesus can empower a large catch of fish, then he can do so with people. The point is that Simon, and by extension us, are to trust Jesus’ word as true.
When Jesus states that now Simon will fish for men, Simon totally believes him, as do James and John. The movement is growing before our eyes. Another important point is that all through the passage Jesus refers to Simon but as Simon claims he is not worthy, as “I am a sinful man”, the text refers to him as Simon Peter (verse 8). He is already changing, underscoring that God takes us as we are but does not keep us that way. Jesus, of course accepts Simon Peter and assures him that he need not be afraid. At this point Jesus tells what great things he has in mind for Simon Peter and his friends.
Here is the stunning part of the story, their response. Verse 11: “they left everything and followed him”. They left Everything!!! Can you imagine? All that they knew of their previous life, all that they knew about making a living. They were not the poorest of the poor. They owned boats and were making a decent living, yet they walked away from all of it. They did so because they believed. They saw that Jesus was the one, that he had the authority to call forth the power of God and that he had the power to change people and gather them unto God.
While I think the point of the large catch of fish was an eschatological point intended to demonstrate God’s power it does help underline an important point in the here and now. We are called by God through his son Jesus to let go of those things we cannot keep (earthly abundance) and grasp hold of that which we cannot lose (eternal abundance).
As for us in today’s world we are faced with the same choice. Do we believe that God’s word is true? Do we believe in Christ as Risen Lord and Savior? If we look, we can see all around us God’s power at work in the world, just like Simon and the boys saw in the net overflowing with fish. We see it in those who work to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and clothe the naked. We see it in those who risk their everything for the sake of the Good News and those who sacrifice so much for the rights and dignities of all God’s children. God’s love and power are all around us if we but open our eyes. If we have seen God’s power and trust God’s word as true, then all that remains is how will we respond?
I am confident that with our eyes and hearts open to God we will accept God’s word as true and accept the faith he gives us in our hearts. I am equally confident that then we will each find the response to God’s gift of Grace upon Grace that makes sense for us and that we too can become fishers of people.
Praise Be to God