‘Net-works’ – Thursday, 22nd week in ordinary time – Lk 5:1-11
‘Net-works’- Thursday, 22nd week in ordinary time – Lk 5:1-11
Jesus has healed Simon’s mother in law and cast out many demons in the city of Capernaum in Galilee. At all times Jesus has made it a priority to ‘proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God’. The reading of today unfolds on the lake of Gennesaret also known as the lake of Galilee, with a crowd pressing to hear ‘the word of God’.
Jesus is single minded in his mission. He is here to bring the ‘Good News to the poor’ (Luke 4:18) and He does exactly that. The crowds who have been hungering for the Word of God and not some stories or anecdotes, press in to hear Him. I think we preachers need to take a cue from the opening lines of the Gospel and stop pandering to our congregations who want ‘bed time stories’ at Mass rather than the breaking (explanation) of His word. Dwindling congregations testify to a failed methodology that continues to be employed. The consequence is that poor nourishment is dished out rather than the laity being fed by His word. Stale bread, it seems, is the order of the day.
While the modern day preacher has a pulpit, Jesus had to make do with what was available and His eyes set on two boats whose owners were washing their nets. Most of us would have protested if our work schedule was disrupted, especially since Simon and his team had worked the whole night long and were obviously winding down to not only a disappointed catch but perhaps an empty stomach. Free suggestions from amateur anglers was certainly now what Simon needed. Yet Simon complies with Jesus request, perhaps out of gratitude for the fact that Jesus had healed his mother in law the day before.
It is interesting to see the methodology that Jesus employs in Luke’s Gospel in calling the disciples to follow Him. In the Gospel of Matthew and Mark, Jesus authoritatively calls the disciples and they leave everything and follow Him; not so in the Gospel of Luke. Here Jesus employs, what I call a ‘bait and wait’ (pun intended) methodology. He has worked a miracle in Simon’s house and turned it into a healing centre and now he uses Simon’s boat to preach his message while Simon and his colleagues wound up their day but within ear shot of this teacher and his message.
Having baited and waited, Jesus moves in to haul the catch and it was not fish that he wanted to haul in. Simon is asked to ‘pay out into the deep’ (Duc in Altum) a line that Saint John Paul II had engraved in the pectoral crosses that he presented to the Bishops of the world when they visited him. The response of Jesus to Simon’s dismal catch is not one of sympathy or empathy but challenge; try again, this time in deeper water.
Like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and the shebang, Simon too, at first, resists the call of God only to give in; “yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” says Simon to Jesus. The catch we are told was so bountiful that two boats were brought to sinking point with the haul. But the point of this passage like any other good story or narrative is the punch line. So don’t get lost merely in the details of the miracle. The climax of the narrative is now beginning, for from the beginning the focus of this narrative is the call and mission of Simon.
Simon who had seen the miracle in his home and heard Jesus preach on his boat still did not seem to be convinced by the overtures of Jesus. So Jesus had to step right into Simon’s boat and into his face and worked the miracle of the great haul. He wants to show Simon that without Him, he would still be catching ‘small fry’.
Simon becomes aware of his own sinfulness; of his reluctance to say yes and of his doubts about Jesus. “Depart from me Lord for I am a sinful man” is not so much a rejection of his calling but an acknowledgment of his human frailty in the face of being called by God.
His acceptance letter to this ‘job offer’ is seen in how he addresses Jesus. Before the great haul he addressed Jesus as “master” (Greek: epistat ēs, a term used for tutors and teachers) but after the miraculous catch, he addresses him as “Lord” (kyrios).
Peter and company have just caught the catch of a lifetime, they are now going to be fishing legends, yet they leave it all to become followers of an itinerant preacher. To the human mind Simon’s acceptance of the ‘job’ may seem bizarre. There is a lesson in this for us. Perhaps we too are tied down to the nets of our little successes missing the greater calling in store for us?
Simon’s calling also had a purpose, for Jesus says to him, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people”. The sentence structure is grammatically a bit off but is perfect in its Greek text. The word for ‘catching’,zogron in Greek, translates as ‘catching alive’. The call of Simon was not just to stack a billion and half Christians; it was to catch people so that they may live. Jesus is ‘net-working’.
Fr. Warner D'Souza is a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Bombay. He has served in the parishes of St Michael's, Mahim, St Paul's, Dadar East, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Bandra and at present is the priest in charge of St Jude Church, Malad East. He is also the Director of the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum and is the co-ordinator of the Committee for the Promotion and Preservation of the Artistic and Historic Patrimony of the Church.