- “While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 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.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.”
For those who are In Christ, your vocation-experience is not an ‘if’ moment; rather, it is a grace-filled ‘when’ moment for all those who love Him. In my book Cooperating with God: Life with the Cross I treat this narrative of Luke, and I’ve attached an excerpt of it below for you to consider.
There comes a point in time during our Life with the Cross when God somehow lets us know how He would like us to use our gifts for His glory. This sign of perfect grace and consolation is usually followed by or proceeds in conjunction with an event, which will forever be imprinted on our heart and in our memory.
Simon may have felt the Lord’s call to follow Him after he stepped onto his boat and he may have felt troubled or uncertain, because he was being asked to sail a foreign ship, in a foreign sea, and into a foreign direction. To console his heart, Jesus offered Simon a sign of perfect grace. He showed Simon how far ones cup will overflow with God in their boat. Conversion-experiences are those events we have in life where we come into the knowledge of who we are In Christ – what Simon is about to have here is what is called a ‘Vocation-experience’, in which he will discover what he is In Christ. It is this Vocation-experience that will lead him into his Conversion-experience.
“After He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” So God walked onto Simon’s boat without an invitation, then He asked him to put it out to a distance from the shore. God then taught from the water (probably because of the good acoustics) and afterwards Simon received a request from the Rabbi to go deep-lake fishing. Initially, Simon went out of his way to let the Rabbi know how arduous and fruitless he had been in his vocation as of late, but he eventually cooperated with the Rabbis’ request.
Luke emphasizes how far ‘Out of Place’ Simon was in his self-chosen vocation by telling us that before Jesus came in the morning, Simon had been out fishing “all night,”. Simon may have been a good fisherman, but net fishing by moonlight in the first century is comparable to trying to smash a piñata while blindfolded and using a live boa constrictor instead of a bat – it is not the ideal method of accomplishing the task at hand – and there are just too many natural impediments that are fighting against one’s success. In contrast, Jesus is always interested in teaching us that we can do nothing without Him; only so that we might finally comprehend that we are not the masters of our own destiny.
“When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking.” Whereas Simon was unable to catch anything alone in the dark, in the presence of Christ (the true light) his boat was overflowing with blessings. How merciful is Jesus that He meets us while we are in our ineffectual state of sin and shows us what type of grace-filled life we can live, if we just follow Him and become His disciples? That they signaled for their partners in the other boats to help them, teaches us how communal our blessings truly are; that is, how we cannot keep all what God freely gives us unless we also freely share it all with others. When God loves on us, He is simultaneously loving on Himself who dwells in us and in our neighbor. This is how love and mercy is circulated throughout the Kingdom of God – God loving on God in eternal repetition is the cycle of Love in the Circle of Grace.
“When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, and the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Him.” Coming into the real presence and love of God always brings us into the knowledge of our nothingness in the light of His Glory. Isaiah said, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of host!” (Isa. 6:5). This is why we repeat the Centurion’s words before the Real Presence of Christ Jesus in the Holy Eucharist Host at the Mass, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed” (Cf. Mt. 8:8; CCC 1386).
In my book Cooperating with God: the Bridegroom’s Prayer I talk about the ‘Six Degrees of Freedom’, and Peter’s vocation-experience here is this is the essence of that Sixth Degree, which I call ‘Giving fully of Ourselves unto God, even after Death’. The Apostles would not actually mature in this degree until after the Pentecost and after they had endured some suffering, but this was the moment when they were asked to give up their systems of what they thought was working for them, and instead to Cooperate with God by committing fully to Him. In imitation of the Virgin Mother Mary, they also said ‘Yes’, and left everything behind to follow Him. Christ Jesus said to the rich young man, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all you have to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come follow me” (Mt. 19:21).”
As you reflect upon the readings at Mass today, here are some questions for you to consider:
- Have you had your vocation-experience yet? Witness to others about your story.
- Sometimes when we are out-of-place it is like hitting our head on a brick wall. Have you ever been the most qualified person for a job, but didn’t it? Or there was a woman or man you kept pursuing, but it was always the wrong time? How did you feel later when you realized what God had in store for you, and what you would have missed out on if you had gotten those previous opportunities?
- Oftentimes God will give us an inner sense to let us know when we our out-of-place. How often do you pray to the Holy Spirit that He fill you up with all the graces and helps you need to always be attentive to His promptings?
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called, you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O LORD,
when they hear the words of your mouth;
and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD:
“Great is the glory of the LORD.”
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
Scripture texts in this blog are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms © 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.