04 February 2007

FISH STORIES


5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 5:1-11

A Carpenter teaches a fisherman at sea. Jesus tells Simon Peter where to lower down the nests so that a catch may be made. Quite amusing for us, but not for Simon Peter. It is one of Simon Peter’s humbling experiences. It is his fish story.

Simon Peter’s problem is how to catch a fish today. Today, the expert learns from the Amateur. Jesus is the Amateur while Simon Peter is the expert. But Jesus gives Simon Peter this advice: “Put out into the deep and lower down your nets for a catch.” Confident about his knowledge of marine life, Simon Peter replies: “Master, we have worked all night long and caught nothing.” But an argument with Jesus is far from Simon Peter’s mind. He knows He who commands Him. It is the Master! Simon Peter may be an expert in fishing but it is Jesus who made the fish. Thus, he tells Jesus, “…but if you say so, I will lower down the nets.” And a great number of fish – too great that the nets start to tear and the boats are about to capsize – meet the nets half way in the sea.

The miracle today at the lake is not only about catching fish. It is about catching hearts. Simon Peter and his friends caught a great number of fish. Jesus caught the hearts of Simon Peter and his friends however. “For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon,” St. Luke adds his commentary in the Gospel today. Thereupon, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they reached the shore, they left everything and followed Jesus. What else do they need anyway? They already have Jesus with them. Who else should they follow? From then on, Jesus holds their hearts forever.

I wonder how it feels to be a fish. I wonder how it feels to realize that the worm at the hook is actually a bait or the net so enticing is actually a trap only after you bite the worm or swim into the net. It must be very frightening for a fish. But a fish never knows until the bait hooks it or it gets itself entangles in the net. And once it meets your eyes, you do not tell the fish, “Do not be afraid.” Rather, your eyes tells it, “Hmm…delicious!” If I were your fish, I would die even before I get into your kitchen!

When Jesus caught the hearts of Simon Peter and his friends, He told them, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus catches hearts not to slice them into two. He means no harm to anyone He chooses. Rather, Jesus places into their hearts a mission that is actually His, “…from now on you will be catching men.” Jesus makes a fish a fisherman like Him. It does not matter if he or she smells like fish. It does not matter if he or she looks like a fish. It does not even matter if he or she did something fishy before. All that matters is he or she is ready to leave everything to follow Jesus.

I am not a fish. Sometimes, however, I feel like a fish my self. I smell like a fish. I look like a fish. I do something fishy. I can be like a silly fish biting the worm that this world offers only to realize it is a bait I cannot free my self from. “O, Lord,” each morning I pray, “please bless this smelly fish. And if You so will, please make a fisherman out of him.” Then the Lord flashes a fishy smile at me and says, “Be not afraid. Come and let’s go fishing today.”

We all have our fish stories to tell. We all are challenged by our sense of unworthiness. We all have been caught by Jesus and realized more than ever our “fish-iness”. But despite everything, Jesus is a stubborn fisherman: He makes fishermen out of fish.

“Be not afraid” – Jesus tells us, my fellow fish. “Come and let’s go fishing today” – Jesus invites you and me, for He makes fishermen out of our being fish. He has caught us and our hearts are forever His. For Him, let us catch the others. With Him, let us lower our nets into the deep. By our Christian witnessing, our genuine love will make the nets almost tear and the boats almost sink, for there are more fish stories out there waiting to be heard.

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