Wed, February 2, 202210 mins readFather Hans Buob

5th Sunday

Biblical Homilies on the Sunday Gospels in Reading Year C

Bible passages


Luke 5, 1-11

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 they 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.

Biblical Homilies


"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. ". (cf. verse 1-3)

Jesus proclaims the Word of God by the Sea of Galilee because that is where people really want to hear the Word of God. The presence of Jesus by the lake expresses in Luke the attitude of the sovereign Kyrios, the divine Lord in the midst of his people.

As the crowd is very crowded, Jesus finally gets into Peter's boat and allows himself to be driven a little away from the land. Since this process is specifically mentioned here, everything must have a deeper meaning: Of course, this going out on the lake gives Jesus the opportunity to be better heard by the crowd. But at the same time, this also symbolizes the due distance of the crowd from the majesty of Jesus, the Kyrios. Only once again does Jesus appear commanding at the lake, and that as one who comes from another world. Here, however, the already exalted Lord speaks his word to the church in a kind of foreshadowing.

For this, however, Jesus needs helpers. And the fact that he climbs into Peter's boat, among other things, already points to his future assignment, to his future function in the ship of the Church. That is the characteristic of the Word of God, that even in the description of the apparently banal or everyday, it wants to reveal to us something deeper, something that points beyond itself.

"After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch". (verse 4)

What is striking about this brief scene is that Jesus first addresses Simon Peter alone in the singular: "Go out into the lake!" - and then continues in the plural: "Cast your nets out there to fish." This already shows here the need for Simon to have helpers once he assumes his mission in the boat of the Church. However, the names of the other fishermen are not mentioned. Peter is the only one who has the mission and it is only at his orders that all depart in their boats. This is, therefore, a very important passage in relation to Peter's primacy and also to his position in the Church today.

"Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets". (verse 5)

What did not succeed on a favorable night must now succeed at a very unfavorable hour of the day, which is a contradiction. But Simon, contrary to his experience as a fisherman, is willing to obey. And this obedience is the decisive factor. We too must ask ourselves whether we as a church or as individuals are really in obedience to the Lord or whether we do not trust in our own works and our so-called pastoral plans, which so far have led us practically to a dying church, rather than in the Lord's commission and command, in God's calls and in the offers of heaven.

By these offers of Heaven I also understand the private revelations that are recognized by the Church. Or is it that Heaven can no longer speak? Must Heaven remain silent? Can we forbid it, in its infinite mercy, to reveal to us something that is necessary for the growth of the Church and for the salvation of men? Yet we reject what Heaven offers us and prefer to rely on our own actions. Of course, with the Holy Scriptures, the real objective revelation of God is complete. But neither can we forbid God's mouth in the future, when He will come to our aid with His infinite love and mercy because we can no longer get anywhere on our own.

So Peter has to go out on the lake in obedience and against his experience, and he does. He has heard the word of Jesus and so he says, "At your word, which you have now proclaimed, I go out against all our human experience." This obedience of Peter is to demonstrate to all ministers obedience to the word of the Lord.

"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 they were in danger of sinking". (cf. verse 6-7)

The men catch so many fish that their nets are in danger of breaking. That is why they need helpers and call for others. Again, this passage must be understood in terms of the Kingdom of God and Peter's subsequent mission with his fellow apostles.

"When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!". (verse 8)

In this scene Simon Peter is again very much singled out in comparison with the others, who had experienced the same thing and were equally affected. And here he is already known by his later official name, Simon Peter. He experiences his human nothingness and falls, so to speak, before the divine majesty and power of Jesus.

The address Kyrios, which Peter uses here in Greek, makes the otherworldly majesty of Jesus much clearer than in verse 5, where he is addressed as Master. It is a human term. But now, having experienced the abundant catch against all experience and expectation, he calls Jesus Kyri- os, exalted Lord.

Finally, Peter's formulation, "I am a sinner" already indicates here his subsequent fall and conversion.

This also shows that Peter's importance is based entirely on Jesus' act of grace and not on his own performance. Jesus continues to bring sinners into his service, then as now, because we are all sinners.

"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". (cf. Verse 9-10)

The astonishment of Peter and his companions is not, according to the Greek word, a mere amazement, but rather an awed wonderment that encounters divine reality in an unexpected way; something we always experience in the revelations from heaven.

James and John were Simon's business partners. Since they went out with Peter, they were also co-witnesses of the event. But Jesus only addresses Peter, who is at his feet. And he addresses him with the same words that all heavenly beings address men (e.g., at the Annunciation of Mary), "Do not be afraid!" With the same words Jesus will later address Peter as the risen Lord and as the exalted Lord.

Peter must catch the people, and let them live, as the Greek word says. He thus becomes the lifesaver of people who are on their way to perdition, and indeed the lifesaver of eternity. Jesus' words are not a command to follow him, but a prophecy that is already being fulfilled: "Do not be afraid! From now on you will be a fisher of men."

"When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him". (verse 11)

The prophetic word that Jesus has just spoken does what it says. It provokes in Peter and his helpers, John and James, the power to follow him immediately. That is why we must also listen to the prophetic words again and again, as Paul says: "Pursue love! But also pursue spiritual gifts, especially the prophetic word." (1 Cor 14:1) and, "I wish you all spoke in tongues, but much more, I wish you all spoke prophetically." (1 Cor 14:5). For this gift of prophecy is entrusted to us and made possible in a special way in Baptism and, above all, in Confirmation.

This is a call to all Christians, especially to all proclaimers and leaders of the Church, to trust more in the Word of God. Simon and the others were able to experience firsthand the success of obedience to Jesus' word: the two boats were filled to overflowing. Hence, we should also recognize the success of obedience to Jesus' word and the lack of success of misrepresentation of his word, which unfortunately we also have to experience in many cases today. Therefore, Jesus' invitation to Peter is, so to speak, a command to Peter, because Jesus' word also gives him the grace to follow him.

The miracles and the word of Jesus provoke a new beginning in Simon. And this gift of grace is the real miracle of the narrative, apart from the main motif of this passage, namely, the establishment of Peter's commission for the Church. This gift of grace shows how the acts of power and the words of the Kyrios, the exalted Lord, can be a call to let oneself be found by him and to follow him, a call to leave everything and to dedicate one's life completely to the apostolate. For this reason, we too must listen to the Word of God and allow ourselves to be challenged by it. And then it may happen that some of Jesus' words, some of Jesus' deeds of power may also become a call to leave everything and to dedicate our life entirely to the apostolate, to evangelization, to the salvation of people and to the glory of God. ∎