The Patience of a Fisherman
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim sj (The Freeman) - February 10, 2019 - 12:00am

If you were Peter, how would you feel when with your countless years of experience in fishing, you’ve caught nothing today.  Just one of those really bad days.  You and all your seasoned fishermen companions tried the whole night, and not a single fish caught.

 

After the sun had risen, the fish are now scattered and gone deep into the water, here comes a carpenter, who tells them to try again and they will catch some.  Wrong time, wrong place, and wrong director! 

When Jesus told the fishermen to put out into deep water and lower the nets, Peter was taken aback.  Perhaps he told himself, “This carpenter knows nothing about fishing?  Doesn’t he know that this is the wrong time of day and the wrong place to catch fish?” 

But because he accepts and respects Jesus, he pulls out to deeper water and casts his nets once more. Surprise! 

The fishermen couldn’t believe their eyes.  The nets were teeming with fish.  They made the biggest catch of their lives!  And Jesus, too, made a big catch.

He catches Peter and his fishermen friends.  Peter and his companions had been listening to Jesus as he was teaching the crowd.  Peter was impressed with what he heard.  He began to realize, not just seeing the big catch, but also from having listened to Jesus and having been with him, that Jesus was a holy man, a man sent from God.  Conscious of his sinfulness, he feels he doesn’t belong in the company of Jesus – he feels like a fish out of the water.  He says, “Leave me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

In his gentle way Jesus puts him at ease, “Don’t be afraid!”  Showing his love and respect for Peter, Jesus commissions him to be a new kind of fisherman – one who will win over men, women and children to God’s new kingdom.

Peter will go out later and proclaim that Jesus lives and that he loves all people.   By his preaching and by living what he preached, he made a greater “catch” than that day on the Sea of Galilee.

What does the Gospel say to you and me – men and women of today?   Jesus commissions us to be fishers of men, women and children just as he commissioned Peter and the other disciples. 

Somewhere, sometime in our life, Jesus has caught us.  We may have struggled against the net or hook, not quite accepting Jesus or some of his difficult teachings, such as “Love your enemy!  Stop worrying!  Carry your cross!” 

Or we may have slipped the net or hook.   We may have abandoned Jesus through sin or indifference.  But we are here today and caught in different degrees by this great fisher of men and women.

Jesus invites us to go and catch other people and introduce them to the good news of God’s tremendous love for them: by living lives of caring and compassion for others, especially for the poor, for the hurting and suffering; by forgiving and by asking forgiveness of those we hurt; by living in hope and in the belief that God loves and cares for us; by doing whatever we can to bring justice for the helpless and poor, the marginalized of society.

One of the real virtues of fishermen is patience.  Our modern technological age is characterized by impatience.  We idolize efficiency and speed – the biggest reason for our traffic mess.  We worship things preceded by the word “instant.”  “Instant results,” “instant coffee,” “instant knowledge,” “instant profit,” “instant romance,” “instant marriage,” and “instant divorce.” 

Even when we pray, we ask God, “Lord, grant me the virtue of patience.   But please, do it now!  Don’t take your own sweet time!” 

Good fishermen can sit for hours just waiting for the fish to bite.   Maybe Jesus had to be patient to catch us.   His patient waiting for us is an example for us to be patient with ourselves as he tries to land us a little bit more each day, and to be patient as we try to catch others for the kingdom of God.

As we gather around the table of the Lord, we are reminded of those times when Jesus sat by the lake-shore with his disciples and ate with them. How he must have loved those rugged, uneducated men.  He loved them to the degree that he entrusted to them his dream of a world, where people would love God and each other, a world of peace and unity. 

He comes to us in this Eucharist and commissions us to make that dream come true.  Today’s Gospel invites us to do two things. 

First, it invites us to do what Peter and his friends did.   It invites us to be patient and persevere in our efforts in life.   After trying to fish the whole night without any luck, Peter could have given up on catching anything. 

At the word of Jesus he made one more try.  And that made all the difference between success and failure.

Second, today’s Gospel invites us to involve Jesus in our efforts in life. When the fishermen were unsuccessfully fishing the whole night, Jesus was not with them. It was when Jesus entered the picture that Peter and his friends succeeded. They not only succeeded, they exceeded their wildest dream. 

It can also be the same for each one of us here.

Let’s close with a prayer that was composed by someone, who was a model of perseverance in prayer, St. Ignatius of Loyola.  Please pray along with me, in silence, his familiar “Prayer for Generosity”:

 

“Lord, teach me

to be generous.

Teach me to serve you

as you deserve,

To give and not to

count the cost,

To fight and not to

heed the wounds,

To toil and not to seek

for rest,

To labor and not to

ask for reward,

Except to know that

I am doing

 your will.”   

Amen.

FISHING
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