The Answer to God’s Call

Miraculous Catch of Fish, mosaic, 6th century, Basilica Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

On the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, we read the gospel about the “Miraculous Catch of Fish” from the holy Apostle Luke. This took place not long after the beginning of the Savior’s preaching in the synagogue at Capernaum, when He said the Scripture of the Prophet Isaiah had been fulfilled (cf. Luke 4.16–30). After that He began to preach and work miracles. It is significant that before this episode of fishing, at one point, also in Capernaum, there was a demon-possessed man in the synagogue. The Savior rebuked the unclean spirit and it left the man, “and they were all amazed,” “and the report about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region. Now He arose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. But Simon’s wife’s mother was sick with a high fever, and they made request concerning her. So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. And immediately she arose and served them” (cf. Luke 4.33–39). Then the Savior continued to preach.

“So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.” And being crowded by the people, He got into Simon’s boat and asked him to put out a little from the land to speak to them. Peter, a docile, simple man, steered the boat, so the Savior could address the multitudes. And after He spoke to the people, He said to Peter, “‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ But Simon answered and said to him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing: nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net’” (Luke 5.4–5).

I like Peter’s words a lot, and I always want to expound on them to see what this wise, humble man means. He had been a fisherman all his life, he knew the lake, when to fish, when not to fish. “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing.” Meaning, “I know the craft well, I know I won’t catch any fish.” Yet he says, “At Your word I will let down the net.” This is the great wisdom of a man who annuls, or annihilates, himself and obeys the other, in this case the Savior. This is the great virtue of obedience. It is obedience beyond reason. Peter had no reason to obey; on the contrary, he had every argument not to. All his skill and knowledge dictated that he not go because there was no purpose for it. Not to mention that he was very tired after fishing all night to no avail. But he did it at the word of the Savior. There is a great virtue here in St Peter, the virtue of obedience.

And in doing so, “they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken” (Luke 5.6–9). It is significant to note that Peter did not say, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” when He healed his mother-in-law, but now. Now the Savior spoke Peter’s language! He told him He was God’s messenger, the Messiah, the Anointed One, in a way Peter could grasp. The miraculous catch of fish was according to Peter’s understanding, a personal message from God.

God does the same with us. We may hear of miracles, but they do not move us. Yet if we make room for God in our hearts or express our openness and desire for God to teach or show us, He will find a way to explain that He is God in a language we understand. There is a lot to learn here. One, the personal character of salvation. It doesn’t matter that others are saved. If you fail to establish a connection with God in your heart, it is of no help. Salvation is personal, and God acts personally. Just as He did today with Peter and the other fishermen because they were all afraid: “So were James and John, the sons of Zebedee who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men’” (Luke 5.10). So this was a miracle by which the Savior caught many at once. There is much to learn from this, especially Simon’s kindness and wisdom and his response to the Savior’s call. The Savior apparently performed a miracle, but it was no mere accident. It was a direct call, a word from God to him. He took it as such. This is the natural response of the man who, when in contact with God, acquires the feeling of God’s presence. Man sees himself as he is, unworthy of God, frightened. Peter was so with the gift of God, and so must we be as well.

I also wanted to emphasize the availability of the apostles. The minute the Savior called them, they answered immediately. It is a coincidence the holy Apostle John is also celebrated today and implicitly, their call to the apostolate is celebrated as well. It would be good for us to go in this direction in our relationship with God and make ourselves available to His program. They left everything. Everything was canceled. The program of the lives of Peter, John, Jacob, and Andrew was canceled, and they went after the Savior. We must also have this openness to God because that is why we say in prayer every day, “Thy will be done.” These apostles, these holy men, had something in them that was open to God, to His work. And when the will of God was manifested, they answered. Not suddenly. Slowly. But they answered completely. Because we must meet with God personally, we also must have this availability, openness of heart the holy apostles had. Not at their level, but at our own. May God help us have this freshness of the soul and move toward a more authentic, living relationship with our God.