Peter's call to discipleship

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

From the story of the miraculous catch of fish, we see how Jesus called Peter and eventually named him the Supreme Head of His Church.

Jesus was then preaching along the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret (Lk. 5:1–11). Peter was there. But he had his fishing to do and at that time, he and his companions were busy washing their nets. Listening to sermons was not his cup of tea. But occasionally he caught a word or two of what Jesus was saying. He soon realized that Jesus was speaking in a way that he never heard a man speak before. So he paused to listen.

But the people pressed on Jesus. In order to be seen and heard better, He boarded a fishing boat — Peter's. When He had finished speaking, He said to Peter, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Being the expert fisherman that he was, he argued with Jesus, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing.” He must have thought, “What does this carpenter know about fishing? Does he not know that fishing was done at night when the fish came to the surface? And last night we caught nothing!” But Peter relented saying, “At your command I will lower the nets.”

Then occurred the miracle which changed Peter's life forever. For right in his own field of expertise, Jesus proved that He was Peter's better. Filled with awe at the great catch, Peter fell at Jesus' feet and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” This because he realized that this man Jesus more than just a carpenter!

Confronted with the stark reality of who Jesus was and realizing his sinfulness, all Peter could do was urge Jesus to “depart from me.” But Jesus would not hear of it. Why? Because He “has come to seek and to save what was lost” (Lk. 19:10). His primary concern was to enter into every sinner's life, call him to a new way of life and journey with him to the end. Jesus was doing this up to the last minute of His life: On the cross he died between two sinners.

It is only when a person is reduced to absolute poverty, when he realizes his nothingness before God, that God can begin His work in him. With Peter emptied of his self–confidence and even of his self and now placing himself completely in his Master's hands, Jesus could now give Peter his mission, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” From catching fish, Peter became a fisher of men — for God's Kingdom! And he should not be afraid because God's Spirit worked through, with and in him. Amazing what a simple fishing expedition did to Peter!

Peter was a proud man, full of self-confidence and was self–reliant. Moreover, his dominating character imposed itself on others. In short, he was a natural leader. But he also had the basic openness to change when shown why. Recall for example the incident of the washing of the feet. When it was time for Jesus to wash Peter's feet, he told Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” But when Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me,” Peter right away changed his mind and said, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well” (Jn. 13:8-9).

Peter also had a great love for Jesus. Recall that when Jesus thrice asked him after the resurrection, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?,” visibly irritated and distressed, Peter answered emphatically, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Then Jesus ordered Him to take care of and feed His sheep — with great love.

It was this Peter whom Jesus made the “fisher of men.” And Jesus did so, not because of Peter's personal worth and his leadership qualities, though these were taken into consideration, but because of his openness to change for the better and his great love for Jesus.

Because of our baptism, all of us are called to “put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch,” i.e., to be disciples of Jesus in the service of His Kingdom. In short, God has a mission for each one of us. The prerequisite for each one of us is openness to the Spirit which leads to self–emptying and love, and followed by the courage to “put out into deep water.”

Doing all these is not easy. Neither can it be done overnight. But do them we must and we must start now. For it is to us that Jesus has entrusted the building up and the spread of His Kingdom. How are we to carry this out in our limited circumstances? We can start right in our own homes, our neighborhoods and our places of work by offering a good word here, a helping hand there. We could also respond to people carrying terrible burdens with a listening ear, a helpful advice and a promise of prayer, etc.

In carrying out these little “missions,” we must not entertain fear — "Do not be afraid!" — because God is with us. After all, it is His work that we are doing.