In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Gospel takes place on Lake Gennesaret, more commonly called the Sea of Galilee. This Gospel raises many questions.
Why did the people ‘press upon’ our Lord? If we were to preach in the street, we would not be pressed on from all sides. It is clear that our Lord had some extraordinary presence for there to be such a crowd around Him.
Why did He teach out of Simon’s fishing-boat, a ‘ship’, on the water? Firstly, because He wanted all the people to hear His words. Sitting in the fishing-boat, there was no-one behind Him and all could hear Him. Secondly, because there was such a press around our Lord, that he could easily have been attacked. We should remember that some of the Jews were already threatening Him. Thirdly, because our Lord wanted to convert fishermen and make them His disciples. From the very beginning He always attracted people through what was appropriate to them. Thus, he converted the wise men, astronomers, through a star. Thus, he converted the shepherds through a stable and thus, today, he converts fishermen through fishing-boats and fish. For fish are the reward of the fishermen.
What can we say of the character of Simon the fishermen, who later became known as Peter? First of all, we notice his trusting character, his faith. Although he had toiled all night and caught nothing, yet he casts out into the deep at the mere word of Christ. Then, having caught a great multitude of fish, he beckons to his partners to come and help him. Why beckon and not call? Simply because the fishermen were made speechless by the quantity of fish that they had caught. Indeed, the Gospel says that they were ‘astonished’. Here we notice another characteristic of Simon Peter – his humility. For seeing this miracle, he says: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’, confessing the lordship of Christ. Finally, we notice the third characteristic of Simon, his zeal. On seeing the miracle of Christ, we read that the fishermen ‘forsook all’ in order to follow Christ. Can we imagine anyone doing that today, giving up their business, their lives, their homes, in order in an instant to follow Christ?
Today’s Gospel also has a spiritual interpretation.
Thus the ship represents the synagogue of the Jews. The fishermen therefore represent the Jewish priests. The fact that the fishermen had ‘toiled all night’ represents the work of the Old Testament. Nothing in it could be fulfilled until the coming of Christ. Until Christ, it was night in the world, with only the haunting gleam of the moon, the nostalgia for Paradise, and the flashes of the stars, the prophecies, to illumine it. Men toiled, but caught nothing in the dark night. But the presence of Christ changes everything. Night becomes day. The fishermen launch out into the deep and there they make a miraculous catch with their net. The net represents the Gospel. In the deep, the net of the Gospel catches everything, not just other Jews, but all who come into contact with it. In this way the ship is no longer the synagogue, but the Church. The fishermen become disciples and apostles, ‘fishers of men’. And the deep, representing the Earth, the great multitude of Gentiles or Non-Jews, is at last conquered.
Let us recall then that today’s Gospel tells us that nothing is possible without the three virtues shown by Simon, that without faith, humility and zeal, nothing is possible.
Faith without humility becomes fanaticism.
Humility without zeal becomes mere passivity.
Zeal without humility becomes pride.
Thus, we find salvation through cultivating the trinity of these virtues: Salvation becomes possible only through the Faith of the Father, the Humility of the Son and the Zeal of the Holy Spirit. And these are the three virtues that today’s Gospel teaches us to cultivate.