09 Oct Obedience to God brings success
In the gospel of Luke 5:1-11 we are shown the calling of the first four disciples: Simon Peter, Andrew, John and James. This is an interesting bible passage as each verse can be taken to teach us something valuable. Just before this passage, we understand that Simon Peter had encountered Jesus prior to this, during the healing of his mother-in-law, and so this bible passage is in fact the second experience for Peter. Peter already had some knowledge of Jesus and knew He could heal people but, in this passage, we see a different encounter he had with Jesus.
Jesus withdraws and spends time in prayer
The passage begins with Jesus and the crowd, Luke 5:1- “once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God”. From this we understand that everyone was pulling and pressing on Jesus as the whole place was crowded as everyone was interested in listening to the word of God. The large crowd meant that Jesus was quite famous and well known in the beginning of the ministry as he spent a lot of time spreading the word of God. Though this was the case, in Luke 5:15-16 we see that though people were trying to get in touch with Jesus, He would often withdraw to deserted places and pray. “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed”. This is something we too need to focus on. Usually when we become well known we tend to use the opportunity of fame. The Lord tells us to withdraw to a lonely place and spend more time in prayer. To spend more time in reflection, examination of conscience and introspection. It is not enough that we save so many people, but we also need to save ourselves.
Jesus gets into the boat
In verse 2, Jesus sees the fishermen, Simon Peter and his accompanies- “he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets”. After a long night of fishing and failing to catch a single fish, the fisherman had given up. They had decided that there is no meaning in fishing anymore. They knew everything about the sea, every detail of the fish, from being fishermen for several years, but did not catch anything and so they were finished with it. Jesus then decides to get into Simon’s boat to use it for His teaching- “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat” (Luke 5:3).
When Jesus got into the boat, He sat down and preached. One thing to remember is that whenever a rabbi (teacher) preached He would always sit and teach, a sign of teachers. When any pope taught an official, dogmas or any important information, they would sit and teach. This comes from the word cathedra which means seat. In the same way Jesus too was sitting on the boat as He preached. Simon Peter was also there as he sat listening to Jesus, whilst the other fishermen were busy washing the nets.
Jesus rewards Peter
After Jesus had finished preaching, He wanted to return Simon the favour, after He let Jesus use his boat. “When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch”- Luke 5:4). First Jesus used Peter (by using his boat) for his ministry and now Jesus is giving him a reward. If you are used by God, then there are two things waiting for you: a special reward and a special calling. So, whenever you are used, realise how privileged it is to be used by God. You will never be a loser but a privileged person. If God has used you, this means there is something bigger and better for you; something greater is going to enter into your life.
Jesus used Simons boat and Simon willingly gave up his boat for the ministry of Jesus. Similarly, God will always demand something from us therefore we must do everything for the lord (“Therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything”- Deuteronomy 28:48). If you do whatever ministry God has demanded of you happily, God will protect you. A ministry is not just preaching to others or serving at the retreat centre, but everything is a ministry such as being a good husband, a wife, a child, driver, supporting and loving people. If you are doing it for the Lord, it is a ministry. Even your job is a ministry if you do it for the Lord. If you do it just for money there will be a time when you become frustrated, but if you do it for the Lord, you will get a salary plus the blessing of God (bonus). “Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord and not for your masters, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ”-Colossian 3:23-24. If you put your whole heart into it and do it for the Lord, He will give you a reward. This is what happened to Simon Peter.
Peter was ready to obey Jesus
When Jesus commanded Simon to put his net for a catch, “Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Firstly, from this verse, we see that Simon calls Jesus master. He knows that Jesus is a master and so, despite what Simon went through by not catching any fish, he is ready to listen to Jesus. This is interesting because before the miracle we see later, Simon calls Him master but after the miracle, he calls Him Lord. Therefore, there is a conversion of seeing Jesus as a master and Lord, which is shown in later verses.
Secondly, Simon Peter begins to tell Jesus how hard he worked to catch fish yet did not receive anything. However, he precedes to say, “yet if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Peter was a fisherman and knew every detail about fishing. Jesus on the other hand had no connection to fishing; He was the son of a carpenter not a fisherman. But when Jesus told Peter to do this, Peter did not argue with Jesus. For Peter, Jesus’ word was more important to him than his knowledge of fishing and so Peter was ready to do anything. Though the circumstances had not changed, Peter was ready to obey Jesus because he believed in his word.
Similarly, maybe our circumstances are against us too. Maybe we are confused. But if we use our common sense in these situations, then we will not see the meaning in listening to God and going out to fish again. Peter could have given Jesus a million excuses such as the fact that Peter was an expert in fishing. Peter could have told Jesus that it was easier to fish at night rather than daytime. Or Peter could have told Jesus that he was tired and that he had finished fishing and that his friends had already started cleaning the nets. Yet, Peter left all of the excuses aside and said, ‘if you say so, I will obey’.
Apply the same spirituality in all areas of our lives
When it comes to spirituality, it is not only restricted to the church. It should be applied in our businesses, working area, and all areas of our lives. In church we praise God loudly, but do we have the same spirituality in our work life? Do we have the same mentality in forgiving, compassion, mercy, and sacrifice for others in our work life? Inside the church we say Lord, I am ready to sacrifice myself for you and the whole world but when we go outside, we tend to sacrifice others, not ourselves. Therefore, we need to apply what we do inside the church to the outside world too. This is what Peter did. Though he was an ordinary, uneducated fisherman, he knew this. Though he was an expert in what he did, he trusted Jesus’ word over his knowledge. If we become too pre-occupied with our common sense or our own intellect then it is very difficult for us to receive spiritual gifts such as the gift of tongue, gift and charisms of the holy spirit, miracles and wonders. “Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthian 2:14).
Many times, we are spiritual inside the chapel, but when outside our behaviour, communication, and language has no connection with Jesus and spirituality we have in the chapel. However, we see in 1 Corinthians 2:14, that it is difficult for such people to get gifts of the Holy Spirit. The gifts of the spirit must be discerned by the spirit and so they are foolishness for them. This is why many people don’t believe in gift of tongue, miracles, healings, or anything supernatural. They say it is nonsense, a business or magic as they don’t understand it. The bible says those who are unspiritual do not receive gifts of the spirit because they are foolish to them. However, if we do not understand something, we should always look at the word of God or the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Both support all kinds of supernatural gifts and so we should be humble enough to look at the bible and CCC and then we will understand all that is happening around the world. We should never judge anything just because our common sense and intellect cannot grasp it. There are many things beyond our knowledge.
In Peter’s case, he let go of his own knowledge and listened to Jesus’ powerful word. “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth it shall not return to me empty but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11). The word of God is so powerful that if you listen to it, it will happen. God sends the word with a purpose and so if god says something, just believe it blindly. Don’t use your own knowledge too much in front of the word of God because it is the same word of God that created your common sense and intellect. Therefore, the priority should be given to the word, not to our own knowledge.
Jesus watches Peter and smiles
In Luke 5:6, we see outcome of Peter listening to Jesus- “when they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break”. Peter went to cast out the net into the sea once again but where is Jesus? Jesus is sitting and watching the outcome. He watches the way peter is working hard and smiles as He watches this. This is such a beautiful scene. Seeing Jesus sitting on one side of the boat whilst peter, on the other side, is busy casting the net and rejoicing at the amount of fish he catches. All the while, Jesus is calmy looking at this and smiling.
It is so beautiful to have Jesus in your boat when you are working so hard. And it’s so beautiful to see Jesus smiling when you are working hard. Just imagine, Jesus watching you cook, clean, and work. Watching how you cook, how you cut and how you wash the plates and whilst He is watching, Jesus is smiling. So, any work that you do, just imagine Jesus being there in your boat watching you and smiling whilst you are doing this work.
This is the same look our parents would give us when we were young and playing with our siblings and friends. Sometimes our parents would sit and watch us play. Immediately, when they do this, our enthusiasm is doubled, and we become so happy. Suppose we were playing a game, every time we would receive a point, we would turn around to our parents to see their reactions because their reactions and smile makes us happier. Similarly, this is what happens when we become aware that somebody is sitting in our boat. When Jesus is sitting in your boat, watching you working hard, your whole attitude to work will be different. The way you work will be different. So, invite Jesus in every work, even the smallest of work. That is why we have a tradition of praying before we eat, drive or anything that we do. We make the sign of the cross and invite the presence of God into that act. So, any work that you do, start it with a prayer. In doing so, you invite Jesus and your whole attitude towards the work will change. Furthermore, you consecrate and purify your work. That is our Christian tradition. We are not supposed to start any work without making the sign of the cross and we should never end it without the sign of the cross, even if it is a small work. When we do this, Jesus will be watching and smiling just like He did to Peter.
The fish also preached
In verse six, we see the abundance of fish Peter and the others caught but where did the fish come from if there was no fish caught during the night? The fish was already in the lake. When they were working hard the whole night, they did not catch a single fish but when they obeyed Jesus, all the fish were inside the net. But when Jesus was not there at night with them, all the fish were outside net. What does this mean? Even the fish were also preaching to the disciples. The fish showed them how in the night they were trying to catch them, but the fish were not ready to listen to them as the disciples were not ready to listen to Jesus. However, at that moment, as Peter and the others were doing it at the command of the master that created the fish, the fish willingly surrendered to them. Likewise, every creature in this world has a gospel to preach. Your business has a gospel to preach. If you are obedient, they will be obedient to you. Every work that you entrust and every work that you do will be a success because they will be obedient to you as you are obedient to the God who created them too. This is the special preaching the fish taught to Peter and the others.
Similarly, the world is also preaching to us. Through all that was created, there is a message for you. “For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So, they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20). God preaches to us, not only through preachers, priest, and others but also through these created things. In Peter’s case, it was the fish. In the same way, these fish are preaching the gospel to us too and showing us that if we are not obedient to God, they will not be obedient to us. If we are ready to listen to Jesus, then they will willingly surrender. Not just one or two but all of the fish, beyond the capacity of our net.
Our blessing is not just for us but for others too
Every time God gives you a special blessing, don’t think it is only for you. It is meant for others too. “So, they signalled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink” (Luke 5:7). Any riches, prosperity we receive, we should not be so selfish to keep it all for ourselves. Half of it is meant for others.
The church is so lenient in only saying one tenth, but in today’s gospel, we actually see that half of it actually belongs to the other partners. Who are the partners? The whole world. We are all spiritual partners and so we are supposed to share any blessing we receive with others. This is why the church encourages almsgiving, sacrifices and helping the poor and widows. This is because God gives you in abundance, not only for yourself, but for others too. We usually tend to get angry at others taking our blessings, even if we have an abundance, but this attitude will not work in the presence of the Lord. God is the master not only our master but for others too. Therefore, if he has given us something, it is not only for ourselves but for others too. This was the attitude of Peter. When he had so many fish in the net, he called all his partners and asked them to take it too. Jesus was so happy about this and that is why he chose Peter.
Peter realises he is a sinner
“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). In this verse we see two things. Firstly, we see that Peter no longer calls Jesus master but calls Him Lord. Secondly, when peter came to know He was standing in front of God, he realised how much of a sinner he was. Similarly, if you know that God is in front of you, the second thought you will have is ‘I am a sinner’. If, when you stand in the presence of god and pray, don’t feel that you are a sinner then you do not honestly believe in God. If you truly believe you are standing in front of the almighty God, you will begin to cry and repent. From the pharisee who came into the temple and prayed ‘Lord I am not like this Samaritan, I am a perfect man’, we see that the pharisee actually made himself God and thus did not believe God. However, the outcasts cried and said they were not worthy. This is because they knew who was standing in front of them, the Almighty God, and so they remembered their unworthiness.
Do not let your unworthiness stop you from coming to God
Though Peter realised his unworthiness, he made a mistake. He saw how much of a sinner he was that he asked Jesus to get away from him. But Jesus told him to not be afraid. In God’s presence, it’s good to have repentance but fear is unnecessary. The biggest mistake some people make is that they are so afraid of God saying that they are unworthy thus leading them to not go to God. Some don’t want to go to confession due to having repeated sin again and again as they see no point in confessing the same sin if they keep on repeating it. God tells us to stop being fearful and come to Him. He came in search of sinners and so there is nothing that can separate us from Him. He came in search just for you.
Ultimately, there is a lot we can learn from this bible passage and the whole bible. What was outlined in this article were just a few. However, there are many wonders and treasures to be found when reflecting on the word of God. By reading and listening to the truth, your whole life will be changed and more importantly, the more you know Jesus the more you will fall in love with him.