TEXT: Luke 5:1-11
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 they 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.
Perhaps at some point of our life, we have come to experience the feelings of standing before mystery. When something great happens to us that is beyond our imagination or expectation, we just stand in awe.
When we stand in awe, we may have either of these two feelings: First, we see ourselves as too little and insignificant. We would find ourselves asking: “Who I am to receive this great blessing?” just as David utters in wonder: “O Lord, our Lord, how awesome is your name through all the earth! You have set your majesty above the heavens! …When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place– What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?” And we feel so grateful for the gift we receive.
Second, we may be confused and get scared of the blessing that we think we don’t deserve to have. We may ask ourselves the same question: “Who am I to receive this great blessing?” Then upon our confusion and scare, we may begin to doubt about our goodness and start to develop a sense of low self-esteem.
As I read the story of Peter and his friends in the Gospel today, I see both of these feelings present in them when they have received a great catch of fish thanks to the advice of Jesus. As experienced as they are in the fishing career, they did not catch anything after a long night of hard labor. On the one hand, they are so amazed at what has happened before their eyes. They can’t believe that what they are seeing is real. They are experiencing a mystery. They stand in awe. They are filled with gladness and joy. They are surely grateful for this blessing. On the other hand, they feel that they do not deserve this favor. That’s why Peter falls at the knees of Jesus and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” I don’t deserve this great blessing.
My sisters and brothers, how many times have we come before the Lord, saying: “O my God, I am a sinful person. I am a bad child of yours. I don’t deserve what you have bestowed and continue to bestow on me. I don’t deserve you, Lord.”? And, dear sisters and brothers, if we observe carefully what happens in those moments, we will recognize the same response from our Lord that he says to Peter: “Do not be afraid.” Of course, Jesus knows that Peter is weak and sinful. But when Peter lowers himself, Jesus lifts him up and even shows his great confidence in Peter and his friends. Jesus entrusts to them a greater job to do: From now on, you will no longer catch fish but people. To me, this is wonderful good news to all of us because God, in Jesus Christ, always has great faith in us. God does not have low esteem about us. Therefore, should we not raise the level of our self-esteem? Should we not appreciate ourselves and others more?
We thank God because God is always positive about us. Let us imitate God in this aspect today by our being positive about ourselves and about those we meet in our journey.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.