The Gospel of the Day – 2016.02.07 (Sunday)
Go Beyond Yourself
Jesus was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.
When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him. (NJB)
Leadership is Stepping Out of the Groove
In reading the gospel for today, let us set aside the notion that Jesus used some kind of magic powers to fill the nets with fish, when earlier in the day there were no fish to be found.
This is not a story about fishing, and there is no such thing as magic.
This is a story about moving beyond boundaries, reshaping context, exceeding expectations, and organizing the work of one’s partners.
In the first paragraph we see Jesus teaching in a crowded place. Does this mean that the crowds following Jesus were so great that they pushed him into a boat?
Possibly…but consider for a moment that Jesus and his followers were preaching in a crowded field, in a place and time filled with many voices contending for the attention of the people, and that the ministry Jesus was concerned with was not an ordinary ministry. Jesus was actively involved in changing the expectations of the people, he did that skillfully by drawing them outside of their context, and this illustrated dramatically by his stepping into a boat, leaving the shore and teaching from a place that was detached from the normal mode of living.
Jesus skillfully leads his closest followers into this new mode of teaching, and as a result their efforts, which had earlier met with failure, were now manifestly successful. By surpassing their boundaries they were able to engage more people than they were able to minister to, and they in turn needed to call for more support. Their work required them to train more teachers.
In the final paragraph we here Peter asking Jesus for forgiveness on account of him being a sinful man.
It would not have been a sin for Simon-Peter to have been incredulous at the notion that Jesus would teach them a thing or two about fishing, if it was actual fishing that they were doing; Simon-Peter was a fisherman.
Doubt is not a sin, especially when the doubt is in regards to the expectation of a miracle or the workings of magic; that is common sense.
When Simon-Peter was asking to be forgiven for his sins it was an acknowledgment that his former way of seeing things, of viewing people, understanding relationship, was a mode of life rooted in fear, prejudice, and privilege; that way of life was sinful.
His desire to be forgiven was an acknowledgment of that, and an indication that he understood something of the new way that Jesus was leading him in.
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time