In the Gospel today, Jesus invites Peter to cast his net into the deep for a catch. Peter had every reason to be skeptical, having tried all night to no avail. Being a very experienced fisherman, he knew that the best opportunity for a good catch was at night when the sea tide was favourable. Nevertheless, he casts his human knowledge aside to make an act of faith as he says to the Lord: “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 command defies all the rules of the trade that I know but trusting in your word I will do it.” Though exhausted from a night of fruitless work, Peter did as commanded and it yielded what was probably the biggest catch of his fishing career.
The miraculous outcome inspires Peter to cry out: “Leave me Lord; I am a sinful man”. In that epiphany moment, he recognizes the divinity of Christ while acknowledging his own unworthiness as a sinner. Whenever we step beyond our human reason to make an act of faith in Christ, we get transported deeper into the mysteries of God while realizing how much we cannot comprehend the immensity of the divine essence. The closer we draw to 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 Isaiah had a similar experience in the First Reading as he recounts the frightening vision he had where the seraphs proclaimed the holiness of God. 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 to transformation for us is to always crown our human effort with faith in God. We have the example of Isaiah who had his lips cleansed as he was commissioned to minister to the people of God. Peter went on to become 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 cast their nets into the deep and great things happened. Further, Jesus says to Peter: “Do not be afraid” (Luke 5:10). This phrase occurs some 70 times in the Scripture. Abraham heard it, and so did Isaac and Jacob. Moses heard it and likewise Joshua, Gideon, and Elijah. Hezekiah heard (it), and Solomon, Jehoshaphat, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel too. In the New Testament, Joseph heard it and so did Zechariah, the Shepherds, as well as 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. Therefore, we cannot settle for less or become complacent in our little comfort zone. We need to reach out for the hope Jesus offers us in our everyday struggles – we need to always 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 have 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 today because Jesus says so.
So, have you been searching for true love in a genuine relationship 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! What about the longstanding problems in your marriage that won’t go away? Cast into the deep! Are you afflicted by a sinful habit or addiction that seems impossible to overcome? 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 terribly worried about your self-image and 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 so badly in the past? Cast into the deep! Do you struggle to ask for forgiveness from those you have hurt? Cast into the deep! Have you been looking for work for years without luck? Cast into the deep!
Dear friends, let these obstacles become stepping stones for us on account of Jesus our Lord who became poor that we might prosper; who died that we might have the fullness of life. Peter cast his net into the deep not because he was logically convinced by Jesus’ command, but rather because Jesus said so. That’s what we are called to do. There is no limit to what we can achieve when we top our human efforts with faith in Christ Jesus. Today, he wants us to cast our nets into the deep. He wants to move 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!