Today’s Gospel account recalls for us how Peter and his companions had been out all night fishing and had caught nothing. Tired and disappointed, Jesus says to Peter, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” No matter how exhausted he was, Peter replied, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”
The key to unlocking the meaning of this account is found in Peter’s response, “at your command.” For Peter, the word of Jesus was different from the word of anyone else. Jesus’ word carried an authority which no other word carried. So if Jesus called for it, then no matter how hopeless the situation might seem, or how tired Peter was, or how foolish he might appear, he would try again.
We see Peter placing his absolute trust in Jesus. At Jesus’ word, he was prepared to attempt the impossible. We see this again later in the Gospel when Peter attempts to walk on water at the command of Jesus.
How many people are there in our lives whose word we would take seriously? Whose word we would trust absolutely? Whose word we would completely rely on? I think the majority of us would say “very few!”
The fishing business is a noble calling. However, Jesus saw that Peter was capable of other things. He was the kind of person he wanted to have sharing his mission. What did Jesus see in Peter that made him call him to share in his mission? Peter had the first and most essential one, faith in Jesus.
The Gospel story is not so much a story about fishing as it is a story about trust. Jesus was saying to Peter, “How far are you prepared to trust me?” It was a turning point in Peter’s life. What started out as a failed night at fishing ended in a new beginning for Peter.
Jesus was calling Peter and his companions to something deeper in life. He was offering them not just a new work, but a cause to which to dedicate their entire lives to. They understood that he was calling them to serve others, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
Jesus still calls people, and the need is just as great today. And there are still those who respond. There are those who say “yes” to serve as ordained priests, consecrated Religious, and in the diaconate. But not all Christians are called to follow and serve Christ in these ways.
We all share the common vocation of serving given to us through the waters of baptism. But what does following and serving Christ mean for the ordinary person? It means to be recognized as a Christin where you are and in your chosen vocation or occupation or profession. The call in the first instance is not to apostolic ministry but to faithful discipleship. As St. Teresa of Calcutta so eloquently said, “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.”
— Father Dennis, February 10, 2019