Dear Parishioners and Visitors,
Luke tells us that Jesus was being pressed by yet another crowd of people. They didn't yet know just who he was but they had surely heard of his miracles and teaching. They were crowding around him to hear the word of God.
The story of Jesus' ministry to this point has him preaching and teaching in the Temple. This is the first account of Jesus going out among the people, into the streets, meeting them where they were and entering into their everyday lives. Jesus gets into Peter's boat, summoned him and asked him to put out a way from shore so the people could gather on the shore and listen to him. After speaking, he told Peter to go out to the deep water and let down his nets for a catch. Now, Peter and his partners had already finished a very hard day's work and like many of us who have tried our hand at fishing, he had come up empty. They had already washed their nets in preparation for the next day and were surely exhausted, disappointed and ready to just give it up for the day. But Peter, in an act of obedience says, OK, if you say so I'll do it. Nothing more than that, just simple obedience to Jesus.
I certainly have times when I am totally worn out, tired of dealing with rude people, parishioners' who demand more than I can ever hope to deliver, and at the end of those days there is always something like hospice or hospital emergency awaiting me at the end of the day. It is specifically in those times that I hope Jesus doesn't call me and ask me to do even more before I rest! There are times when I hope the ringing phone isn't one of my clergy colleagues or a brother asking me to do something right away. It won't surprise you that when the call comes and I'm required to stretch just a bit more before the end of the day, God always seems to bless those efforts. Sometimes it is the blessing of holding the hand of a very sick person. Sometimes it is the blessing of sharing a meal with the homeless and sometimes it is the blessing of entering into another's sadness and grief. I believe those blessings are indeed as great as a fisherman's boat overflowing with fish. I admit that I only recognize some blessings in hindsight but they are always there. I would suggest that it is in the times when we have given ourselves over to worldly problems and done everything we can to control our lives that we are most likely to be pressed into the work of living out the Gospel.
Acting on Jesus' command, the nets are raised and are overfilled with fish. So many that another boat is needed to hold the catch. Needless to say, the fishermen were astonished and certainly had to have a feeling of discomfort and uncertainty, as one would _expect after witnessing a miracle. Peter's response to the miracle of abundance was to protest that he is unworthy because he is a sinful man.
In our first reading we see the Prophet Isaiah is in the presence of God and is being called by God to take a message to God's people. Isaiah protests and says "Woe is me! Iam lost, for Iam a man of un clean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Both Isaiah and Peter feel the magnitude of their unworthiness. A seraph cleanses Isaiah's lips with a burning coal and Jesus has a cleansing word for Peter. Whatever troubled their hearts was let go as God set them on a new course and empowered them for new work in the kingdom. Peter, James, John and others leave everything they have and follow Jesus. They dropped everything they were doing, walked away from their possessions and families and followed Jesus. Through out years as a Dominican Friar, what I've learnt is that following God's call is not a single event, it is a life long process filled with much failure punctuated with occasional bright points of success. God's call to follow can be as subtle as something that moves us to ask questions. It can be the pain and agony suffered by federal workers that spurred Food Banks and community organizations to compassionate action two weeks ago. I believe that we are called to continue Jesus' ministry to bring good news to the poor, proclaim release to the captives, and to let the oppressed go free. The message in Luke's Gospel is not so much one of acceptance of, or recognition of a call, it is one of obedience. A call to discipleship is something that God has both commanded and enabled. Simon Peter and the others saw something in Jesus that moved them to hope and to do his bidding. Lord, this is what it comes down to: Do I trust you?
-fr. Peter Damian, O.P