jesus simon fish

In today’s Gospel from the Mass (Luke 5:1-11), a powerful example of the awesomeness of Jesus is recalled:

[1] While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennes’aret. [2] And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. [3] Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.  [4] And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”  [5] And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”  [6] And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking,  [7] they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.  [8] But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  [9] For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken;  [10] and so also were James and John, sons of Zeb’edee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.”  [11] And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

In this concise story, there is a profound demonstration of the awesomeness of Jesus Christ:

  • The word “awesome” in modern usage means nothing…for almost anything is considered “awesome” today.  But if everything is awesome, nothing is awesome.
  • The true meaning of “awesome” is what Jesus is and what He demonstrates in today’s Gospel: from the Greek word, akhos, meaning “pain, grief”, “dread mixed with veneration”, “divinely reverential”.
  • Peter has been working all night, attempting to catch fish and he and James and John have caught nothing.  Peter is exhausted and probably quite frustrated too, after toiling 8-10 hours in the dark out on the Sea of Gennes’aret (also called the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias).
  • Peter dutifully agrees to put out into the deep, after briefly making sure that Christ knows that the fish just aren’t cooperating.
  • So great is the catch that the “nets are breaking”, they had to get help from another boat and, when the fish had been hauled into the boats, the boats began to sink.  That is a lot of fish!
  • It seems as if the catch is so large, it is something that Peter has never seen.  This, in part, explains Peter’s astonishment.
  • But Peter’s reaction goes much further than astonishment:  he “fell down at Jesus’ knees”, saying “depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
  • The word “Lord” is the word that Jews used for God (in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word “Lord” is used 6156 times to refer to God).  Peter is professing Jesus’ divinity!
  • In Peter’s words and actions is a powerful demonstration of “awe” – Peter has “pain, grief”, “dread mixed with veneration”, “divinely reverential”.  Peter is really afraid; Jesus seeks to comfort his fear saying, “Do not be afraid…”
  • Peter falls down and begs Jesus to depart from him, for when he realizes Jesus’ divinity, his own sinfulness becomes instantly apparent.
  • Peter, James and John were poor fishermen, and they have just had the catch of their lives; two boat loads of fish was undoubtably worth a lot of money.  And yet, they “brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.”  Clearly, the Apostles are awed.

It is in the dwelling on the Gospels, men can learn about Jesus, to truly meet Jesus and be awed by Him.

If St. Peter’s reaction of the awesomeness of Jesus does not move you, what will?