Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way 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 the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
On his knees before Jesus, Peter exclaimed: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” — a deeply felt, spontaneous reaction to the catch of fish which revealed Jesus’ awesome power. As a 7-year old child, I felt the same kind of terror the first time I heard the awful, sky-filling wail of a World War II air-raid siren. I ran crying to my mother and stuttered out: “Is it from God ?”
My mother comforted me gently as she explained. Jesus comforted Peter and the other disciples—not with an explanation but a promise: “From now on you will be catching [not fish, but] people!” Thus assured, “they left everything and followed him.”
God’s power is beyond our imagining. When we stand helpless in the face of some terrifying reality like war, terrorism, or fatal illness, when we feel like hiding, running, giving up—we need instead to fall on our knees before Jesus, asking him not to go away but to stay with us, to empower us, to transform us as he did those long-ago disciples. He has done that for untold millions, over two millennia; why not for us too?
—Fr. Jack O’Callaghan, S.J. assists the Dean at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine with programs in Ignatian Spirituality.
Support us, Lord, all the day long, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes,
the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over, and our work done.
Then Lord, in your mercy, give us safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.
—A New Zealand Prayer Book
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