For the past three weeks we have seen how Luke had been true to his intent of writing in an “orderly sequence” the events in the life of Jesus Christ so we may realize the “certainty of the teachings” handed down to us by the apostles (Lk.1:3-4, Jan. 28). Taking off from the scene at the Nazareth synagogue, Luke showed us how Jesus is the “word who became flesh” when He told the people, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21). And like those people in the synagogue, we too are so amazed with the words of Jesus but likewise disturbed, even mad when He hits a soft spot within us. That is how Jesus does His mission, always inviting us to listen and act on His word that is fulfilled in the “today” like in the calling of the first four apostles, the brothers Simon and Andrew, James and John. After driving Him out of their synagogue, Jesus went to preach to the crowd who followed Him along the shores of Gennesaret.
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 (Lk.5:1-3).
What a lovely sight to behold, my dear readers, of Jesus Christ borrowing the boat of Simon to preach to the people. Imagine the Son of God, through whom everything was created, borrowing the boat of Peter? Imagine how that boat of Simon must have looked like. It must be so ordinary and most likely, even with some holes with nothing so outstanding – just like us! Yet, here is the King of kings borrowing that boat from Simon. Luke is showing us here a “parable in action” of how the Gospel is to be preached to all people with no exception. It is a beautiful imagery of the Church gathered around our Lord and Master with Simon – like us – in supporting role. Today, it is the boat of Simon being borrowed but later on, it would be his voice, his total self that Jesus would borrow, very similar with us too.
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. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 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 (Lk.5:4-6,8,10-11).
This is the climax not only of our gospel scene today but also of the whole series these three Sundays that started on a day of rest inside the synagogue of Nazareth when Jesus came to proclaim the word of God. The actualizing power of the word of Jesus Christ fulfilled in every “today” when proclaimed and heard and accepted. See how Simon was filled with fear that he fell into his knees after seeing the bountiful catch after obeying the words of Jesus, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” Of course, the fish is always in the sea; the key to their great catch was the presence of Jesus Christ. It is the same with our own lives when we work so hard in our jobs or career and in our studies and other pursuits but we are still left empty. But after finding Jesus, we are so overwhelmed with so much blessings not really in material form but something more deeper and lasting. The word of God is His very presence and its effect is always in the here and now, not later. Like the other Sunday, we said it is not enough to enter the church but we enter the person of Jesus Christ. And the moment we enter Jesus, we then become like Simon, filled with His presence that we no longer address Christ as Master or Teacher but also Lord. Like Simon, we also experience a deepening in our recognition and relationship with Jesus: at first, we relate to Him more as a Master and Teacher but later, we realize that He alone is our Lord.
See how by placing the miraculous catch, the call of Simon and his companions, and their response at the beginning, Luke is teaching us the spirit that must guide us in proclaiming and listening to the Gospel Jesus Christ. In these three Sundays, we have seen Jesus Christ as the central figure for He alone is our Master and Lord. He alone is the one calling us all to be fishers of men and to follow Him means to leave everything behind like Simon and company.
Here lies our problem today when we forget Jesus our Master and Lord. So many times we in the Church, especially us priests and those in the hierarchy as well as some laypeople forget Jesus, usurping His Lordship that we speak and act like God. Luke reminds us in this scene at the Gennesaret that we do not replace Christ! In the first place, remember that people come for Jesus in the first place and only Him, always Him whom we must share to everyone. How sad that so often, consciously or unconsciously, some priests create cults around their very selves, we become the standard of everything, we claim everything that people look up to us more than to Christ. Like Simon who would be called as Peter later, our job is to lend our boat and our voice to Jesus and not to replace Him. Like the prophet Isaiah, we are being sent forth by the Lord to bring Him among people, to make Him present among them. As Paul explained also these past three weeks in his first letter to the Corinthians, the Church is the living body of Christ that we all build together. There is the diversity of graces, gifts, and ministries that come from the Holy Spirit to complement each other. Most of all, in proclaiming and listening to the word of God, there must always be love for without it, nothing would have value at all. And that alone proves to us the centrality of Jesus Christ who alone is our Master and Lord, who calls us despite our many defects like Simon. Jesus alone is the one we must love and serve, His very person and not only His call and teachings. A blessed week to you! Amen. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.