By Bishop Paul
While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 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. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, 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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:1-8)
Peter was an experienced fisherman and he knew his job. When our Lord told Peter to let down his nets for a catch, Peter obeyed his word yet conveyed doubt that, given his experience and training, anything would come of it. So when this great catch of fish follows, Peter is confronted with a reality beyond his experience and comprehension. He then responds in a paradoxical manner; he draws near to Christ and kneeling before him, says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” What an amazing response. He comes near only to tell Jesus get away from him! In this great catch, Christ was reaching out to catch Peter. Why didn’t Peter just take off, since he was such a sinful man and wished to avoid Christ? In drawing near to Christ, Peter sees in our Lord an image of what he (Peter) is called to be. It is something wonderful. Yet in drawing near to our Lord, he sees something not right in himself, something that needs to change. “Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” This is the beginning of Peter’s repentance; this is the beginning of the journey upon which Peter embarks to lose his life, so he might find it whole and complete in Christ.
This same message is presented in the icon of the Transfiguration. Our Lord reveals His glory to Peter, James, John, as far as they are able to bear it. The three disciples are depicted in a disruptive manner. They are upside down, covering their eyes, turning away; yet, at the same time, they are pondering this great mystery. But we hear the words of Peter, “Lord it is good for us to be here!”
Last week I mentioned that we meet Jesus of Nazareth on the bridge of repentance. We see a man but we realize we stand in the presence of someone who is more than a man.How cannot this brief vision cause us also to respond by stating, “depart from me for I am a sinner?” How cannot this brief vision change our lives, enabling us to say, “Lord, it us good for us to be here?”
Recently a priest posted this quote on Facebook that I thought was worth sharing. “We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it (Madeline L’Engle).” It is this Light that leads one to repent and seek His Kingdom. Next week I will share thoughts on Mark 10:17-27. Not all respond as Peter did in Luke 5.
I welcome your comments, as I don’t claim to be infallible here.
A Question for discussion: Is it true that many of us do loudly discredit what others believe, telling them how wrong they are and how right we are?
Christ is risen!