Saturday, February 06, 2010

Gospel for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From: Luke 5:1-11

The Miraculous Catch of Fish and the Calling of the First Disciples
[1] While the people pressed upon Him (Jesus) to hear the word of God, He was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. [2] And He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. [3] Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, He asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the people from the boat. [4] And when He had ceased speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." [5] And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." [6] And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, [7] they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. [8] But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." [9] For he was astonished, and all that were with Him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; [10] And so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." [11] And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.

1. "Just as they do today! Can't you see? They want to hear God's message, even though outwardly they may not show it. Some perhaps haveforgotten Christ's teachings. Others, through no fault of their own, have never known them and they think that religion is something odd. But of this we can be sure, that in every man's life there comes a time sooner or later when his soul draws the line. He has had enough of the usual explanations. The lies of the false prophets no longer satisfy. Even though they may not admit it at the time, such people are longing to quench their thirst with the teachings of our Lord" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 260).

3. The Fathers saw in Simon's boat a symbol of the pilgrim Church on earth. "This is the boat which according to St. Matthew was in danger of sinking and according to St. Luke was filled with fish. Here we can see the difficult beginnings of the Church and its later fruitfulness" (St. Ambrose, "Expositio Evangelii sec. Lucam, in loc."). Christ gets into the boat in order to teach the crowds--and from the barque of Peter, the Church, He continues to teach the whole world.

Each of us can also see himself as this boat Christ uses for preaching. Externally no change is evident: "What has changed? There is a change inside our soul, now that Christ has come aboard, as He went aboard Peter's boat. Its horizon has been expanded. It feels a greater ambition to serve and an irrepressible desire to tell all creation about the "magnalia Dei" (Acts 2:11), the marvellous doings of our Lord, if only we let Him work" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 265).

4. "When He had finished His catechizing, He told Simon: `Put out into the deep, and lower your nets for a catch.' Christ is the master of this boat. He it is who prepares the fishing. It is for this that He has come into the world, to do all He can so that His brothers may find the way to glory and to the love of the Father" ("Friends of God", 260). To carry this task out, our Lord charges all of them to cast their nets, but it is only Peter He tells to put out into the deep.

This whole passage refers in some way to the life of the Church. In the Church the bishop of Rome, Peter's successor, "is the vicar of Jesus Christ because he represents Him on earth and acts for Him in the government of the Church" ("St. Pius X Catechism", 195). Christ is also addressing each one of us, urging us to be daring in apostolate: `"Duc in altum. Put out into deep water!' Throw aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you. `Et laxate retia vestra in capturam. And pay out you nets for a catch.' Don't you see that you, like Peter, can say: `In nomine tuo, laxabo rete': Jesus, if You say so, I will search for souls?" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 792).

"If you were to fall into the temptation of wondering, `Who's telling me to embark on this?', we would have reply, `Christ Himself is telling you, is begging you.' `The harvest is plentiful enough, but the laborers are few. You must ask the Lord to whom the harvest belongs to send laborers out for the harvesting' (Matthew 9:37-38). Don't take the easy way out. Don't say, `I'm no good at this sort of thing; there are others who can do it; it isn't my line.' No, for this sort of thing, there is no one else: if you could get away with that argument, so could everyone else. Christ's plea is addressed to each and every Christian. No one can consider himself exempt, for whatever reason--age, health or occupation. There are no excuses whatsoever.
Either we carry out a fruitful apostolate, or our faith will prove barren" ("Friends of God", 272).

5. When Christ gives him these instructions, Peter states the difficulties involved. "A reasonable enough reply. The night hours were the normal time for fishing, and this time the catch had yielded nothing. What was the point of fishing by day? But Peter has faith: `But at Your word I will let down the nets.' He decides to act on Christ's suggestion. He undertakes the work relying entirely on the word of our Lord" ("Friends of God", 261).

8. Peter does not want Christ to leave him; aware of his sins, he declares his unworthiness to be near Christ. This reminds us of the attitude of the centurion who confesses his unworthiness to receive Jesus into his house (Matthew 8:8). The Church requires her children to repeat these exact words of the centurion before receiving the Blessed Eucharist. She also teaches us to show due external reverence to the Blessed Sacrament when going to Communion: by falling down on his knees Peter also shows that internal adoration of God should be also be expressed externally.

11. Perfection is not simply a matter of leaving all things but of doing so in order to follow Christ--which is what the Apostles did: they gave up everything in order to be available to do what God's calling involved.

We should develop this attitude of availability, for "Jesus isn't satisfied `going halves': He wants the lot" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 155).

If we don't give ourselves generously we will find it very difficult to follow Jesus: "Detach yourself from people and things until you are stripped of them. For, says Pope St. Gregory, the devil has nothing of his own in this world, and naked he comes to battle. If you go clothed to fight him, you will soon be pulled to the ground: for he will have something to catch you by" ("The Way", 149).

Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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