Obviously for Simon, soon to be renamed Peter – this was no ordinary day and no ordinary catch. But let’s back up. What was ordinary? There was so much that was familiar in this scene, for sure. Having an awful catch, after working hard at it all night, this wasn’t the first time that happened. The hours spent at sea, hours in the deepest, darkest hours of the night, when that happened – when nothing happened but failure – nothing to be proud of – nothing to show as evidence of the time, energy, effort that was spent – it’s not a stretch of the imagination to understand why there were feelings like being a complete and utter failure. And when that happens, before too long, the brain starts to obsess. First with completely legitimate concerns like how will I make ends meet? Or what am I doing wrong? Any reasonable person in this situation would wonder those things. They’re legitimate questions that need some evaluation, particularly in this place of vulnerability.
Thanks so much for stopping by to read my homily for the FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME -February 6, 2022, for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments… I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing Sincerely in Christ – Father Jim
But before too long, the vicious cycle of negativity continues to spin and spin turning inward as the comparison game starts to rear its ugly head: Looking at everyone else, all the other fishermen around, some may be friends, some not. But all of a sudden the harshness that has already started to turn within
distorts outward seeing every single one of them as highly successful, “why are they doing so well – (and I’m not)” every single one of them a rival. The bitterness comes after obsessions dominate leading to very inaccurate conclusions like everyone else is a winner and I am a loser. Not just today, not just at the end of this awful day of fishing, but my life. The weight of those awful, heavy thoughts is so heavy, Simon might intellectually have known it was morning, but the darkness he was experiencing made it still feel as dark as the deepest hours of the night.
None of this is written explicitly in the text we just heard, but it’s not some mere stretch of the imagination. It is there, right there in between the lines.
What else is not a stretch of the imagination – this hits closer to home for many of us, no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in either. As hard as it is to believe sometimes as we go through the list of people we have idealized as being far better than we are – that Mother that Father is better parents than me; that couple is so much more loving to each other than we are; that athlete, that musician, that classmate is so much better than I am;- even that priest is holier, smarter, more creative than I am. That person who looks better, sounds better, is better – even all these conclusions we have concocted in created in our heads, creating rivalries and jealousies with people who may or may not have the slightest inclination that we have – they too would find these destructive cycles somewhat ordinary somewhat familiar themselves. Which explains why vast numbers of people describe themselves as feeling isolated, lonely, and depressed in our day and age. Yeah, there’s so much that’s ordinary and familiar about this scene for Simon – because there’s so much that’s ordinary and familiar about it for all of us. As much as we want to deny it when that light starts to break into that darkness – because there’s something familiar about the darkness that we can get comfortable with – as much as everything stinks, everything stinks, so there’s nothing to do about it, no expectations, I can just sit here and wallow.
And that is the point of decision that every person has to make. Wallowing or not. Staying in the darkness or moving towards the light. That’s what makes this Gospel passage of such monumental importance that in the Gospel of Luke it’s recounted as the first call of all of Jesus’ disciples, specifically His apostles. Luke helps us focus simply on Simon Peter – his brother Andrew and the two other brothers James and John are all there and called at this moment too, but Luke wants us to focus on Simon Peter- relate to him and put ourselves into the scene.
Whatever boats we’re traveling in, whoever it is that’s in our company, whatever nets we’re casting into whichever seas – each of us is Simon, who deep within is very much aware of our own brokenness and sinfulness.
And Jesus comes right to us. That’s why we’re here. He’s caught our attention, at least momentarily, to stop fixating inwardly and looking up and seeing Him and hearing Him. Amazingly He asks to come aboard, to come closer. Gently He invites us to “put out into deep water and lower our nets” – that’s the moment of decision – the fork in the road -put out, move away from the wallowing thoughts, the shared negativity and depression of the world around us, the broken system of evaluation where value is determined by this bizarre set of standards that are designed to be impossible to ever achieve in order to always leave us unhappy and unfulfilled – just as He invited Simon – he invites us to put out into the deep – away from all that…
And listen to Him. To trust Him.
It wasn’t the miracle that made this no ordinary day, no ordinary catch – as spectacular and awesome as that was. Because what was Simon Peter’s reaction? “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” If it was just about his business and fears and worries about how to survive – Simon would’ve rejoiced and been relieved. That catch instantly erasing the preceding bad night and countless others in the accounting books for Simon’s Fishing company – but they’re an afterthought. Simon recognizes all those dark thoughts he was wrestling with and allowing to win. Simon realizes all the time and energy he’s wasted; the unfair judgments and jealousies and rivalries he’s created; everything he’s done to contribute to his brokenness and his being a “sinful man.”
What made this no ordinary day, no ordinary catch was Simon seeing Jesus for who He truly was. What made this no ordinary day, no ordinary catch was Simon listening to Jesus; trusting Jesus; recognizing Jesus Himself wanted to be there. The amazingly good news: God Himself wanted to enter Simon’s boat.
For Simon as a Jewish man, this was unthinkable. Simon Peter would’ve remembered what we heard in that first reading today from the prophet Isaiah, with the call of Isaiah. For the Jews, ever since Genesis and the fall of Adam and Eve, and being sent out of the Garden of Eden, and the reality of sin separating us from perfect friendship with God which is what death itself is all about – people were keenly aware of their unworthiness and the inability to even come near holy things. Let alone God. In the Old Testament, the 10 commandments were carried in the ark, and people couldn’t even touch that. There were elaborate ways and means and assigned people in order just to transport the Ark of the Covenant. So the people were aware of their inability to be near God who is so perfectly holy.
Isaiah as he is called into this particular service as a prophet describes the scene of this vision where he sees God and His angels and just the sight of them causes terror. He doesn’t feel worthy to be there, let alone ever to speak God’s words to the people. And what happens, in this vision, these angels at God’s direction take basically a coal from the fires on the altar in God’s temple and touches Isaiah’s lips. God wanted Isaiah to be His prophet and so God made Him worthy.
Back to Simon. What made this no ordinary day, no ordinary catch was Simon seeing Jesus for who He truly was. What made this no ordinary day, no ordinary catch was Simon listening to Jesus; trusting Jesus; recognizing Jesus Himself wanted to be there. The amazingly good news: God Himself wanted to enter the boat.
God, Himself wants to enter your boat.
What will break the cycle of brokenness, sinfulness, unworthiness, rivalries, comparisons, depression, the heaviness that we find ourselves is very familiar, very ordinary – what will be the day that is no ordinary day for us, is when like Simon, we let Him enter our boat, we listen to Him, we trust Him, we surrender ourselves, our sinfulness to Him – and allow Him to make us worthy.