PETER – AN APOSTLE’S FAITH (LUKE 5:1-11) February 10, 2013 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
PETER – AN APOSTLE’S FAITH
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
February 10, 2013
Simon Peter is the son of John. Originally he was known as Simon until Jesus gave him the name Peter, meaning stone or rock. He and his brother Andrew fished for a living in the Sea of Galilee; neither had money. Peter was among the first disciples whom Jesus called. Married, Peter’s wife later traveled with him on some of his missionary journeys.
On first meeting, Jesus recognizes this man as a key figure. In our modern day, a basketball coach—let’s suppose the coach to be successful—might well recognize a talented player, even if the youth lacks finesse and needs training. So the coach recruits him.
Jesus recruited Peter. There is a striking sentence in one gospel, and it reveals as with a flash of light what Jesus did. Jesus, on first meeting, said to Simon, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas (which means Rock)” (John 1:42). Here, Jesus recognizes Simon as eager and outgoing, unsure, but with great possibilities that must be developed.
Jesus here sees what He could make this man become, and Jesus now called the man the name that henceforth, by the grace of God, Peter should someday be. Peter will become a man of faith.
Although Jesus and Peter have previously met, Jesus at this point is speaking to the crowd. Peter and Andrew do what fishermen do, then and now. After fishing that has proved futile, Peter and his brother Andrew remove seaweed and bits of wood from their nets. They would be tying the loose thongs, or replacing them.
Jesus asks Peter to put out a few feet from the shore so that He might more easily speak to the crowd pressing on Him. With oars, Peter maneuvers the boat so that Christ can sit and face the people and speak from the stern of the small craft. Having finished the sermon, Christ tells Peter, “Go out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
“Master,” objects Peter, “we caught nothing.” We worked at fishing all night. But if you say so, I will drop the nets low in the water.” Peter might well object, for he knew these waters; fishing was best at night, and despite his and others’ efforts, they vainly toiled through the dark, quiet hours. Useless! Still, the Master urges, and Peter will act on the Master’s word. Peter gets another hand from the shore, and these two row from the land, out quite a way.
And so Peter lets down his net into the deep water. Almost immediately, these fishermen feel the wriggle and tug and harsh pull of many fish and they realize their net might burst so that the swarm might swim off and away. Peter beckons to his Zebedee partners still on shore; they see his frantic signaling, and they push their boat free from the sand, and they row hard to the first boat. These fishermen tip the net first in one boat and then in the next. But it is all too much! The weight crowds these men with the squirming fish. No more free board! One wave would swamp both boats. So they row—but in a daze, slowly—to land.
And Peter kneels before Jesus saying, “Leave me Master, for I am sinful.” Suddenly Peter feels overwhelmed with the authority of Jesus who has brought about such a load of fish. That Jesus has caused this wonder, that the midnight effort failed, but that now the net has held and that the boats have not swamped—on the instant Peter knows the source and the power of the Master.
Weddings, funerals, moments of intensity can engulf us. Face to face with the holy, Peter can scarcely hold back his emotion. The facts overwhelm Peter’s faith, and he feels small, quite unworthy, quite mindful of his irreligion and meanness and secular concern. ”Depart from me, Lord; I am a sinner.” Peter fears at his encounter with transcendent power! Isaiah felt that way: “I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5).
At important moments, a person may realize more deeply the power of confession. Perhaps we might see sinfulness no longer as distant, but now acutely and arousing my own disquiet, upsetting and not to be denied. A rush of personal failure shakes my frame.
Although Peter cries out saying, “Depart from me, Lord,” Jesus did not depart. “Fear no more,” says Jesus; “from now on you will be catching men!” And Peter ends by following Jesus; he left everything.
Peter was sufficiently prosperous to own a home, to be married, to have children, has his mother-in-law living in the home, and he engages in the recognized industry of fishing. An abruptness marks Peter’s leaving boat and nets and business partners. Peter is not naïve; he is an established member of the Capernaum society. But initially, Peter wants to spend the day with the person who could miraculously force a swarm of fish.
In time, this all develops. At the moment, Jesus replaces the scaly fish with humans who will, like the fish, be drawn into Peter’s seine; “from now on you will be catching men.”
Peter left the familiar village and his familiar fellows. The attractive Jesus moves Peter. His faith would develop. His experience of other mighty works would follow. It happens that men and women experience that magnetism, that powerful drawing of the Lord. Perhaps we might desire like Peter to be near the Lord. Amen.