The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke. (5:1-11)
In today’s gospels we see Peter, a grown man, a tough guy, brought to his knees and brought to the depths of humility by the Lord Jesus Christ. But what did the Lord do that brought Peter to his knees? Did He punish him? Did He correct him harshly or rebuke him? What happened that reduced Peter to the human equivalent of a puddle?
What happened was that the Lord Jesus Christ gave Peter and the other fishermen with him a generous and overwhelming gift. Perhaps you have had such an experience in your life. I hope that you have have. Receiving an unexpected gift, especially a big or special gift is always one of life’s great joys. I pray that all of you will have that experience. But I want to go further, I want to assure you that in fact you have already had that experience even if you do not understand it yet.
When we receive an unexpected gift this is something that can overwhelm us with emotions but in the case of Peter, he was even more overwhelmed because he did not deserve the gift in any way. In fact, not only did he not deserve the gift, but he completely dismissed the gift giver from the start. Yet our Lord remained faithful even when he was not.
Peter was not a normal man. He was an expert fisherman. Someone who made his living by catching fish to feed himself, his family and the whole village. He spent hours and hours out on the water the night his encounter with Jesus. He was likely exhausted, hungry, thirsty and probably a bit depressed. It turns out that he man have been normal after all. He may have been a man with passions and emotions and frailty similar to our own.
As the sun rose, Peter and the other fishermen went back to shore and started the process of cleaning up and washing their nets. At this point the Lord tested Peter. The Lord rarely tests us when we are in good spirits and everything is going well. No. It is when we are vulnerable, weak and tired that the true tests happen. Why? Because when things are going very well, we rarely ask God for anything and we rarely think about our need for Him.
Peter was frustrated and tired and he probably wanted to go home, but he heard the word of the Lord Jesus and he obeyed anyways. He obeyed half-heartedly. He didn’t really expect anything to happen. The preacher did not understand fishing. But Peter wanted to be respectful and honor the Lord and so with a small amount of faith and a large amount of skepticism, he obeyed. What happened next brought the man who would become the head of the apostles, to his knees in utter disbelief. The water trembled and then splashed and then quaked as fish rushed into the nets. It seemed that the whole of the lake was going to empty itself into those nets. Peter and those with him were actually afraid that their nets were going to break in the process! And just like that, the Lord had completely shifted Peter’s thinking. He started thinking that he would gain nothing at all through this effort and by the end he had gained so much that he was afraid that if God provided even one more fish, the whole net would be destroyed.
Peter was left shocked, amazed and humbled beyond words. He never believed Jesus. He obeyed out of politeness, but he had no faith. Now, after this great gift from the Lord, he believed and he began to understood the depth of his own ignorance and pride, and to an even greater degree, the depth of the mercy and love of God for mankind.
Each of you have had or will have moments in life that remind us of Peter at at the beginning of this passage. We work hard, study hard, toil and sweat and struggle and sometimes nothing seems to work. We work hard at our jobs, at our studies, at home, in our relationships and even in our free time. But we often feel that nothing seems to help. I want to encourage you to take time to listen for the voice of Christ and take hope. You will hear his voice in your prayers and in your gospel readings. But you will not hear his voice unless you try to hear it. Yesterday we celebrated the memory of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, a great saint of the 20th century. He had this to say “The Merciful Lord loves His own servants and gives them sorrows on earth, so that the soul would through sorrows learn humility and dedication to God’s will and find peace in the pain, as the Lord said: Learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart, and you will find rest unto your souls.” Bring your problems to the Lord and sit quietly and listen as well. You won’t get an instant answer but have faith. The moment before the nets started to fill was a moment filled with silence.
I want to assure you that God plans to fill the nets of your life and He will provide for you because He loves you more than you can imagine and not one day of your life has gone by without many many gifts from Him. If have gratitude and open our eyes we will see that in many ways the Lord has already provided so much more than we could ever want or need. He has most certainly provided more than we deserve, especially the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of divine life. And for all of these gifts and many more, we should follow Peter and fall on our knees daily and say to Christ, “My Lord, depart from me for I am a sinful one.” If we are honest, this is the only appropriate response. To Christ alone be glory together with His Father and the Holy Spirit, AMEN.