5th Sunday Year C - Homily 4

 Homily 4 - 2019

As Luke arranged the events of Jesus’ activities in his Gospel, Jesus had met Simon some time earlier in Capernaum. In fact, he had cured his mother-in-law’s fever. Simon had probably seen the other healings, too, that Jesus worked in the town later that evening. Luke told us nothing of Simon’s reactions then to what he had witnessed.

After today’s incident of the enormous catch of fish, Luke told us that Simon and his fishermen companions were “completely overcome”. But it was not with joy and anticipation, but rather with deep fear. In his shock, Simon had even cried out to Jesus, “Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man!” What had happened?

It seems that somehow, suddenly, the penny had begun to drop. He was overwhelmed by mystery – out of his depth, confused, bewildered .. and afraid. Without thinking, he had called Jesus, “Lord!” And for Simon, as for most of his contemporaries – Pharisees, priests and common people – “Lord” meant holy, separate, different and unconsciously threatening; and was used only of God. Simon’s awareness of his sinfulness, his spontaneous sense, “I am a sinful man”, immediately led him to feel uncomfortable, vulnerable and totally out of place.

Did Jesus’ reassurance “Do not be afraid!” work? I suppose that a lot would have depended on the tone of Jesus’ voice, the expression on the face, the whole body-language. Simon and his companions had so much to learn – that simply by being who he was, Jesus would reveal a God who was essentially and spontaneously merciful, unconditionally forgiving, gentle, non-violent, whose judging was vitally therapeutic and never vindictive or punitive. But for that recognition to penetrate every fibre of their being it would take a lifetime; fortunately, in that process, time would be friend not enemy.

As they learnt truly to follow Jesus and, through their friendship, to be gradually and profoundly transformed, they would find themselves becoming increasingly and radically free to leave everything else, and wonderfully empowered no longer to spend their lives catching fish but, as Jesus put it, “catching people”.

Luke's purpose in including the incident in his Gospel was not to give his readers a simple history lesson. It was to throw light on their lives and to alert them to their mission as followers of Jesus. And if we today hear the story without pondering what it might be saying to us, we miss the point.

If we worry about our Church and our world, if we wonder who will “catch people” today, I think that little is served by simply praying for more priests or religious. Jesus looks to all of us, each in our own way with our varied personalities, capacities and personal opportunities, to work with him. If Jesus were I, if Jesus were you, what would he be doing? Does the question even engage us? Do we care? We need to become friends with Jesus for a start, not just to barrack for him. There needs to be something going between us – a genuine and life-giving relationship. That means we need to spend time with him – as Simon and his companions did – or we shall never even want to work with him.

We need to get to know him well, because he is the one who shares with us his sense of God. It is so easy to get God wrong. So many people have got God wrong. So many adults go through life with a juvenile understanding of God – still tied up with rules and regulations, law and order, black and white, reward and punishment, as though they have learnt nothing about love and the light that love throws on life. No wonder they are not interested in God. And they certainly won’t listen to the so-called professionals – the bishops. But what do they see when they see you? What do they hear when they hear you?

They are not interested in sermons; but they are vulnerable to care and love, and can be inspired by fidelity and truth, by joy and good sense.