Beloved. In today’s Gospel we get a glimpse of one of Jesus’ great miracles. Jesus’ miracles were not just things He did to impress people for a “wow factor.” Instead they had a purpose. The miracles were to confirm the word that Jesus spoke; that He is indeed who He says He is—the Son of God and the Savior of the world; the miracles confirmed in a powerful way that Jesus was speaking the truth. Later on Jesus would tell the Jews [Jn. 10.37-38]: If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know that the Father is in Me, and I in Him. So the miracles point to who Jesus really is—the very God Himself, the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. That’s what we have here in today’s Gospel—by having these fisherman go out again after they had returned empty handed after fishing in the best spots and at the best time and then When they had done [as Jesus had told them], they caught a great number of fish, and their nets were about to tear apart. They signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. By this miracle Jesus showed that He is the almighty God, the Creator, the very One who not only created all things but sustains all things and the very One to whom all the creatures/ creation must obey.
But this miracle also goes beyond that. It is also a picture of a divine truth. The fisherman did not ask Jesus for this miracle. Jesus did it on His own volition for a reason—and what was that reason? We see that in Jesus’ words to St. Peter: Have no fear. From now on you will be catching people. By this miracle/ object lesson, Jesus meant to teach these fishermen what He was calling them to do as His disciples and apostles. As His apostles, Jesus would send them into all the world to bring His saving word and work to all people. Like here, as they went out into the whole world they would have only the Lord’s word and promise: Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch. Being faithful to our Lord’s word, He would richly bless their efforts. And like here, Jesus would grant the increase; all their humanly devised ways and methods would amount to nothing: we worked hard all through the night and caught nothing. How this miracle would strengthen them in their apostolic work Jesus was calling them into!
The Church has this same commission has today—as do each of us personally: to be fishers of men; to bring Jesus and His saving work to others; to tell others the Good News about Jesus. As we do that, let us hear Jesus’ word: Have no fear; as we do that, let us rely simply on what Jesus has given and entrusted to us—His holy word and sacraments and say with St. Peter: But at your word I will let down the nets of Your holy word and sacrament into the deep of this world, where You have placed me. We can boldly tell the Good News about Jesus to the world around. The results are the Lord’s; He is in control of the catch, but in grace He wants to use us to bring His saving word and sacrament to a world decaying and dying in its sin.
This miracle also teaches us of the fullness of our new life in Jesus, once we have been caught in the net of the word and sacrament, once we have been brought to faith. As we will see as we look at this miracle a bit more, our life of faith brings remarkable changes to our lives.
Master, we worked hard all through the night and caught nothing. What a time of great disappointment these fishermen experienced. They wasted the entire night; they worked hard and had nothing to show for it. But that disappointment turned into a wonderful surprise for them: so many fish caught at the worst time and place for fishing that two boats were filled to the point of sinking. That was the opposite of what should have happened. There should have only been more disappointment. So what changed? But at your word I will let down the nets.
So what was the difference? It was faith in the Lord and His word and His promises. The Christian’s life of faith brings us amazing surprises. God is a God of surprises; He likes to surprise us. Think, for example, of when God came to this earth. He came as a Baby—small, weak, and frail—not in power, might and glory. Think of how He comes to us today—in common word, water, bread and wine. So like here with the fisherman, Jesus gave them a tremendous surprise, so also with us today: what seems to be a great disappointment we, through faith, see the Lord working great things and turning them around into a great surprise for us. We do well to live a life of faith looking for the Lord’s gracious working. To be sure, we may not always see it or at least not right away; but faith keeps our eyes open looking for surprises from the Lord—even in, and especially, in our sorrows and disappointments.
Master, we worked hard all through the night and caught nothing. Our day in day out struggles in life, our normal daily lives are like the futile night fishing for these disciples. Nothing seems spectacular; our faith seems hum-drum; sin and doubt are fostered; we may feel distant from God. But what do we hear? Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch. We hear the Lord summoning us to faith, to look to Him, His word, His work, His promise—to look for the surprises that He gives us; to look for His gracious work.
We have before us our Lord’s promise: for a catch. His promise arouses and nourishes faith. That’s why especially when we are in the midst of our hard night’s work for nothing, that we keep ourselves close to our Lord and His word and hear Him speak to us in His word His promise, His comfort, His assurance. He will give us a wonderful surprise. In faith we keep hearing and looking; and that faith is strengthened by His promise. The life of faith brings remarkable changes!
Another change that a life of faith brings is one from lack to abundance. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.” Again, the great lack that these fisherman had—no fish after all that work. But when Jesus tells them to go out now at the worst time and place for fishing, Jesus is doing what? –He is saying: work and hope and let Me see to your sustenance. Do your work faithfully and diligently and trust Me to provide for you. There are two things—the work and the blessing that comes from work. Normally our Lord combines the two—“as you work I will provide for you.” But here He separates them to teach these disciples and us that ultimately all our blessings that seem to come from our work actually are the Lord’s blessing us through our work. To be sure, here But at your word I will let down the nets, that’s work and labor but at an extraordinary time to drive home that point that it comes from the Lord. So as we labor and hope in the Lord, He will sustain us and give us what we need; in fact, we will often work long and hard for nothing until the Lord at the right time and way will give the abundance/ blessing. As we live lives of faith, we will recognize and experience the Lord giving us that abundance in our lack.
As Jesus grants these disciples great earthly blessing, He is also inviting them to give their lives over to the great mystery of Him—Put out into the deep water. Go into the deep mystery of Jesus—who He is and what He has done and is doing for us. In Jesus we find great spiritual abundance. As we Put out into the deep water, we ponder and think about Jesus; we delve into Holy Scripture read and meditate; we become like Mary and ponder all these things in our heart and treasure them; we run to the altar to receive Him in our mouths and unite with Jesus. We strive to know Jesus more fully and more intimately. And a wonderful thing happens—the emptiness of our life is filled to overflowing as we come to know Jesus aright and go all the more deeply into that deep mystery of Jesus. We replace the shallowness and superficiality of the world with the deep mystery of Jesus. We love Him and His word more and more and strive to know Jesus more perfectly and fully. Our spiritual emptiness is changed into great spiritual abundance as we Put out into the deep water.
But there is another remarkable change the life of faith brings: They came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord.” For Peter and all those with him were amazed at the number of fish they had caught, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. That joy of that great catch of fish, that great joy of realizing that Jesus is the Almighty Creator and Preserver and He was in the boat, gave way to great terror: Go away from me, because I am a sinful man, Lord. Without faith, people think everything they have and earned is solely the result of their work, intelligence, superiority, etc. God and His blessing are left out of the picture. But one reason why the Lord so richly blesses us and is patient and good toward us is to lead people to recognize their sin and to repent. St. Paul [Rm 2.4] writes: Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that goodness of God leads you to repentance? By receiving the Lord’s blessings, He wants to remind us/ lead us to realize that we are unworthy of them; by showering us with His great blessings the Lord wants us to become aware of our own unworthiness. By faith we recognize this—we recognize our sin and also the goodness, power and grace of the Lord. We rejoice in these blessings, are all the more thankful for them and live lives of thanks thanksgiving.
And there’s another point when great joy changes into fear. With this great miracle St. Peter realized Jesus/ God almighty was in that boat. We, too, are in the presence of God. By faith we know this even though we don’t see it with our physical eyes. There is no place we can hide from Him. There is no place we can get away with sin. He is the all-knowing and all powerful God. How can we sinners dare to have the holy God in our presence?
But also here the life of faith brings remarkable changes: this fear and terror is changed into hope. Jesus said to Simon, “Have no fear. From now on you will be catching people.” Those are the most glorious words to a one in fear because of their sin and unworthiness, knowing we are in the presence of God: Have no fear; in other words, your sins are forgiven! That is precisely what faith holds to and clings to even as/ precisely when we feel our sin and our conscience accusing us of our sin; that’s what we hold and cling to when we realize that we cannot hide our sin from God; when we realize that we are not worthy of anything that we have that the Lord has given us: Have no fear.
Jesus not only forgave Peter, Have no fear, but He also gave Him the glorious promise: From now on you will be catching people. He would be an apostle. Not only was St. Peter forgiven, he was to bring that same forgiveness to others.
Dear Christian, we can stand before God boldly because of the forgiveness of sins we have received in Jesus because of His life, suffering and death. Remember your baptism that in your baptism you were clothed with Jesus and united with Him in His death and resurrection. Remember you are united with Jesus as you eat His body and drink His blood in the Blessed Sacrament. Forgiven our sins in Jesus we can now stand before Him. Not only can we stand before Jesus, but like the disciples that day: After they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed [Jesus]. Forgiven our sin, we now follow Jesus living a life of faith. And that new life and that following Jesus is not just for this life but we follow Him one day into the joy and bliss of heaven. We have the firm and certain hope of salvation—being eternally with our Lord in heaven, soul and body.
Our life of faith now brings many remarkable changes into our life just as it did those fisherman/ disciples that day. INJ Amen.