September 2, 2021
I delivered this homily at a school Mass in 2013. Based on the same gospel reading we have today, Luke 5:1-11 – calling Peter to be a “fisher of men.”
I love reading the Gospels, but I don’t want the Gospels to just be words on a page. I want the Gospel readings to come alive for me. I need to climb inside of them, and be a part of them. To do this, I ask myself, “What must it have been like to be there when this happened? How would I have felt? How would I have responded?”
Think for a minute about the sequence of events in today’s Gospel. It begins with Jesus, a stranger, climbing into Simon’s boat. It ends two or three hours later with Simon leaving everything he has behind and following Jesus.
What was it that transpired in those few short hours that completely changed Simon’s life? It was not a temporary change either, as Simon, who would become Peter, would ultimately be the rock upon which the entire Church was built.
The story does not tell us what Simon was feeling or exactly what it was that made him completely change his life. There was something different about this guy Jesus. He was captivating. He was powerful, yet soft-spoken. He was challenging, yet spoke of love.
We know there was something special about Jesus because we see Simon’s willingness to accommodate his odd requests. Simon had returned from an unsuccessful night of fishing. He just wanted to wash his nets, go home, and get some sleep. Yet when Jesus climbed into his boat and said, “Take me out a short distance from the shore,” Simon did it.
Simon had dropped his nets into the water over and over again throughout the night, catching nothing. He was a professional fisherman who knew these waters, and yet when this stranger with no fishing experience said, “Lower your nets for a catch,” Simon did it.
Simon knew catching so many fish was a miracle. He knew he was in the presence of something much bigger than himself. He was frightened by what all of that meant. Yet, when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; follow me,” Simon did it.
This is a great story of conversion. It is a great story of answering the call to vocation. It is a great story of faith and trust. But the Gospels are not just stories. The Gospels are a road map for us to follow. They are a glimpse into what living a life for Christ means.
Right now, Jesus is in your boat with you.
He is giving you instructions. He is challenging you to do difficult work, work that you may not understand, work that may take you out of your comfort zone. He recognizes that fear could get the best of you. Just as He did with Simon, Jesus is locking eyes with you and saying, “Do not be afraid; follow me.”
Your life is a Gospel story. You are the main character. How you respond determines how the story ends.