Today, Jesus challenges Peter’s perseverance by asking him to do what he had done all night without success. He invites Peter to cast his net into the deep water for a catch. Peter had every reason to be skeptical, having tried all night to no avail. He was very exhausted and ready to go home. Being a very experienced fisherman, Peter knew that the best time for fishing was at night when the sea tide was favourable. However, he casts his human knowledge aside and makes an act of faith in Jesus: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). In other words, Peter is saying to our Lord: “Your instruction defies all the rules of the trade that I know, but trusting in your word I will do it.” Though fatigued from a night of fruitless work, Peter did as commanded and what a defining moment it became for him. That simple leap of faith yielded what was probably the biggest catch of his fishing career.
Absolutely stunned by the miraculous turn of events, Peter cried out: “Leave me Lord; I am a sinful man”. In that epiphany moment, he recognized the divinity of Christ, and his unworthiness as a sinner dawned on him. Thus, whenever we step beyond our human reason and make an act of faith in Christ, we get transported deeper into the mysteries of God, and we realize how much we cannot comprehend the immensity of his divine existence. The closer we draw to God the more we get awed by his infinite greatness. The more we get to know about God, the deeper we step into the cloud of unknowing, realizing how much we do not know about him. That’s the reason Peter declared himself a sinful man. And that is the experience of Isaiah in the First Reading. He recollects the frightening vision he had of God, and the seraphs proclaiming his holiness. Holiness is the essential attribute of God, which manifests his utter transcendence, his complete above-ness and beyond-ness. Isaiah, like Peter, was struck by this and realized his personal unworthiness, and that of his people. St Paul too is not exempt as he acknowledges, in the Second Reading, his own unworthiness.
Dear friends, the key is to top our human effort with faith in God, and great transformations will happen. Isaiah had his lips cleansed and he was sent to minister to the people of God. Peter became the head of the Apostles, while St Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles, and the greatest missionary of the Gospel. Each of these men realized the limits of their human effort, and each placed his trust in God. They put out into the deep and great things happened. Further in our Gospel passage, Jesus said to Peter: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 5:10). This is a phrase that occurs some 70 times in the Scripture. Abraham heard it, and so did Isaac and Jacob. Moses heard it and so did Joshua, Gideon, and Elijah. Hezekiah heard just like Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. In the New Testament, Joseph heard it and so did Zechariah, the Shepherds, and St Paul.
From Genesis (15:1) to Revelation (2:10), the phrase “Do not be afraid” runs through, usually with a promise of support from the Lord, to dispel our doubts and empower us to put out into the deep. We are called not to settle for less or to be complacent in our little comfort zone. We need to reach out for the hope Jesus offers us in the midst of our hopelessness, we need to cast into the deep. Perhaps we need to review a particularly unhealthy relationship in our life. It could be a matter of renewing our commitment to someone we’ve been neglecting or taking for granted. It could be an aspect of our life that has been bogged down by mediocrity. All we need do is to cast into the deep!
So, have you been looking for work or a life-partner and you think there is no more hope for you? Cast into the deep! Is it that sickness that has ruined your finances, shattered the family harmony, and left everyone on the edge? Cast into the deep! Is it the longstanding difficulties in your marriage that are proving impossible to resolve? Cast into the deep! Is there a sinful habit or addiction that clings so fast you are giving in to despair? Cast into the deep! Have you got a rebellious child who is bent on going astray no matter your efforts – so bad you almost regret being the parent? Cast into the deep! Are you worried about your body or self-image, the way others see you? Cast into the deep! Have you been away from the Confessional for too long and you don’t know how to start again? Cast into the deep! Have you tried hard but are still unable to forgive someone who let you down or hurt you beyond comprehension? Cast into the deep! Do you struggle to ask for forgiveness from those you have hurt? Cast into the deep!Have you tried severally with little success in your academics? Cast into the deep! Have you been looking for work for years without luck? Cast into the deep!
Let these obstacles become stepping stones for us on account of Jesus, who became poor that we might prosper, and died that we might have the fullness of life. We need to reach out to be touched! Peter obeyed Jesus not because he was logically convinced, but rather because of the person issuing the command. That’s what we are called to do! There is no limit to what we can achieve when we crown our human efforts with faith in Christ Jesus. Today, he wants us to cast our nets into the deep. He wants to transport us to a higher level of divine intimacy. Jesus is in our boat today and we must let him take charge and steer us to victory.
May the Lord empower us today to cast into the deep of faith so that we may reap the abundant catch of good works on earth, and of everlasting joy in heaven! Amen!
Readings: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 138:1-8; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11