5th Sunday in Ordinary Time| Year C
Jesus was standing one day by the lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing around him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boats to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.
When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.
Jesus gave Simon Peter a specific instruction, to put out into deep water. Had the fishermen been fishing in the wrong place earlier in the day, a shallower part of the lake where there were very few fish?
Jesus may have miraculously multiplied the fish in the lake or made all the fish swim to one place so they could be caught by Peter and friends. Or his words may have encouraged – or instructed – Peter to go to a part of the lake where Peter normally may not have fished, the deep water, because Jesus knew there were fish there. If this was the case then the instruction from Jesus propelled Peter into going beyond the limits created by his fishing experience, the accumulated knowledge which told him where the best places to fish were.
If that was how this incident happened then it would have been very typical of Jesus. In the gospels we see him time and time again taking people beyond the limits imposed by ignorance, fear, disability, discrimination, sin, and poverty. He took people beyond the hidden personal limits of their past experience. He coaxed out into the open the talents of those he called. No one could be in a comfortable rut in the presence of Jesus; being in his presence meant change and personal growth.
This is the same Jesus who constantly calls us to step out in faith beyond the limits, known and hidden, which often circumscribe our lives. This is the same Jesus who calls us into situations which may be challenging or difficult, or simply new to us, because he knows we can step up to meet the demands of the situation. This is the Jesus who assures us that we the Holy Spirit will be with us, and that we can be the Spirit’s agent.
Being afraid of change creates limits. Being wedded to a comfortable situation creates limits. Change is at the heart of the disciple’s life, and opening ourselves to whatever change Jesus calls us to is freeing.
This is the day to ask where the deep water is, the place we have not ventured into, the place where the fish are, the place where the breath of the Spirit hovers over the water.