February 4, 2007
ORDINARY 5 (C)
Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man. – Luke 5: 8
The crowds that remain on the shore have received our Lord’s teaching, but at this point remain hearers only. Simon & the other fishermen who, like the servants at Cana , do what Jesus tells them to do, are being led into a deeper realization & integration of what that teaching means. In the end, they will come to appreciate the truth of His teaching in a life-transforming way.
It is one thing for Jesus to articulate a teaching; it is quite another thing for hearers to grasp it so it becomes their own. They will have to go deep down inside themselves (put out into deep water) & wait to receive grace (let down their nets). Simon expresses the doubt that all of them (professional fishermen) must have harbored. Who is this novice to tell them their business? Even so, he calls Jesus ‘master,’ meaning that by definition He must know more than they do.
This is the classic position of all disciples: we must obey the master until through our own experience we come to know what He knows. We may be exteriorly obedient, but interiorly dubious. Simon & the others discovered abundance & fullness. If people open themselves to God, God obliges. Their nets are filled to the breaking point & their boats to the sinking point. Since this is not how they usually experience themselves, Simon & his companions are amazed & overwhelmed.
As a midshipman in the Navy, I volunteered to take a 3 day ride on a submarine just for the experience. I went up on the conning tower to observe the getting underway process – this being the first time I had ever set foot on a Navy vessel of any kind. Shortly after entering the channel, the Capt. turned to me & said, “Mr. Holleman you have the Con” (meaning command of the ship), & he disappeared down the hatch. I think I wet my pants. Such an awesome responsibility for such an inexperienced sailor both horrified me & terrified me. Fortunately, the executive officer remained nearby to jump in in case I made a major goof. Still, I was quite relieved when he took over after some 45 minutes. It was a truly humbling experience that I’ve never forgotten, so I think I know what Simon & the others were going through.
If we can trust the Lord to know more than we do, we must prepare ourselves to encounter Him in total vulnerability. We must prepare ourselves to leave our precious preconceptions & prejudices behind & follow Him in an attitude of complete openness to the possibilities. We must expect every aspect of our life to be examined & challenged. It is only if we are prepared to lose our life that we can hope to find it. What we will become will not be by virtue of our own scheming & planning & manipulating, but by God’s grace. The awesome part is, He is counting on us to do just that! If He can work His magic with ordinary fishermen, there is hope for the likes of us! AMEN!