Reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C) – February 10, 2019
“Put out into deep water.” Jesus says this to Simon Peter on the Lake of Gennesaret, or the Sea of Galilee, but what might this command mean to us in our lives today? After a futile night spent trying to make a catch, Jesus instructs Simon to go out once more. He is doubtful, tired, and reluctant. It seems irrational to go back to the same place where you know there are few fish to catch, right? Yet Simon is willing to heed his command anyway, and out to the deep he goes. This act of faith – and what unfolds consequently – reveals to us one of the many beautiful paradoxes of our Christian faith: in doing what the world might view as irrational or foolish, we actually find what is most wise and rational. In Jesus Christ we find life, love, and direction, and an overwhelming abundance of it. Our nets become full, almost to the point of tearing.
When Jesus gets into Simon’s boat, he asks him to go out just a short distance from shore so he can teach the crowd. Only after his words have been spoken does he ask Simon to go out further, where the waters are deep and unpredictable. I think herein lies Jesus’ call to us today. We may first hear Jesus speak to us while safely on land or in shallow waters where we can stand, but once we do – once the Word of God takes root in our hearts – we are then called further. We are asked to let the Incarnate Lord’s voice grow in our hearts. We are asked to take our feet, hands, eyes, ears, mouths, and hearts further. We are asked to get in our boats and put out into deep water – laboring and trusting in our loving God who will fill our nets beyond our understanding, despite our unworthiness. For this reason, we can stand here on the shores of our St. Joseph and St. Mary’s lakes and trust that just as he said to Simon Peter, he says to us, too, “do not be afraid.”
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.
From shallow waters call us, Lord, from safety near the shore,
And bid us launch upon the depths where faith is tested more.
Let not past failures hope destroy nor caution paralyze,
But help us follow where you lead and wait for Love’s surprise.
We cannot fish the ocean’s depths with nets shrunk small by fear.
We need the gift of greater faith when we your summons hear.
And, if we plead unworthiness for what your call demands,
Then may we trust you’ll cleanse and calm our soiled, unsteady hands.
We dare to launch on unknown seas and cast our nets abroad,
For you have bid us grasp by faith the promises of God.
O Christ, you crossed the same wide seas, You send us now to sail;
Be present when we reach the depths with strength that does not fail.