Sunday 6th of February
V Sunday in ordinary time – Year C
Luke 5, 1-11
In the passage from this Sunday, the day of Life, the scene describes what our mission in the world is. What is the best time when God chooses to call us? How does God want it? Up to now, the Gospel of Luke has recounted the preaching of Jesus and the miracles he performed, healing men from diseases. Now, however, the spotlights are changing. This is the gospel for us. He invites us to fish with him, inviting us to do the same. The whole passage of today revolves around three moments of the logos, of the word: at the beginning there is the word Jesus addresses to the crowd; then we have the word of instructions, and on this word the nets are lowered; finally there is the word of the call to mission. Compared to John’s Gospel, which places a similar scene after Easter, Luke chooses to tell this scene at the beginning of Jesus’ community mission, precisely in the calling of his apostles.
It is morning, as always in a context of immersion into creation, which speaks to us today through sister water, through the lake. In the scene we see daily life, a humble and repetitive work, fishermen who repair their nets after a whole night fishing. In this daily life there is a crowd, a flock, which thirsts to be led by its shepherd, by Jesus standing upright, in front of the waters, like Moses during the exodus. Jesus sees the boats, they are two, protagonists of the passage.
What is a boat? Come to think of it, it is nothing more than a piece of wood floating on the sea, which helps us to go from one shore to the other. It is an image of the church, where we must be together even if all different, where we float, we make the same crossing together. Image of our common home, chosen by the Pope in one of the most dramatic moments of the pandemic, when in a deserted St. Peter’s Square where we were all present, he said: “We are all in the same boat, no one is saved alone“. The boat recalls Noah’s ark, the boat is made of wood, fragile, like the holm oak with which the cross is made, which takes us from the shore of death to the shore of salvation. This boat is small, fragile: just like the church, just like the common home, small, fragile. Jesus sees the two boats, and chooses Simon’s one to speak. Two boats, like the plurality of “churches”, voices, charisms, but in which Jesus already indicates a priority, a point from which to speak to the crowds, indicating an order. Seated, he teaches, from this fragile place, he invites the crowd to make the exodus.
After speaking, to draw the crowds from the abyss of suffering, to free us from evil, Jesus says to Simon: “Put out into the deep“, to be noted in the singular, and then: “Let down your nets“, in the plural. A subtle play of singular-plural throughout the dialogue. The message is for one, but for all, everyone’s answer is mine too, every choice is intimately connected with the others, everything is connected. The unity of the boat is both singular and plural, as it is the stupendous biodiversity of the church’s charisms. Jesus’ invitation to Simon is literally: “Lead out into the depths“, the church is called to fish in the depths, offshore, in the heart of the world, for sin. To fish men not because they “have to take the bait” as often happens in society, full of red herrings! But because men, in the depths of the sea, drown, and fishing helps humankind to breathe, to live.
The nice thing is that these “instructions” are given by a carpenter to professional fishermen. At most, Jesus as a carpenter could fix the boat, and in fact they call him “master” almost with an irreverent tone! These are meaningless instructions, almost offensive to the intelligence of the fishermen, the day fishing was destined to be unsuccessful. They don’t make sense: for us only what we manage to do makes sense. But that night they hadn’t caught anything, they were in the throes of bankruptcy. Jesus questions us within our failure, within the failure of the church, while respecting the rules, while fishing at night.
“But at your word” said by Simon reminds us of Mary in the house in Nazareth visited by the angel, to whom she replied “let it be according to your word“: In Luke, here it is a memory of the Annunciation, because the difference, in our life is made when we welcome his word! As long as we trust only in our intelligence, in what we already know, we are destined not to draw anything. If we learn from Mary to trust the word, then we will certainly be able to conceive God in the world.
“I will let down the nets“, in the singular, is the gesture of evangelization. The nets are lowered into the abyss, nets made of connections, nodes, relationships, which help us all to emerge from the water of the flood, allow us to breathe. This listening generates a prodigy! The second boat returns to the scene, helping the first, to collect the multitude of fish caught, to the point that they almost tear the nets. The nets do not tear, however, and the boats are almost in danger of being submerged by the weight, but they do not sink. It describes the overabundance, due to listening to the word, unthinkable before. The fishermen beckon “to help them”, literally “to conceive them”, with the same term used to define “the fish they had conceived”, the fish caught. The same verb used by the angel towards Mary, “you will conceive a child“. Why is the same word used? Here men “conceive” fish, because when we save a brother, we save Christ, we conceive God on earth. This salvation, which spreads by contagion, is our opportunity to give birth to a new man, a child of God. To fish, after all, is to conceive the other! Paul will say the same of the early Christians, remembering his birth pangs in his ministry.
Simon, who here also becomes “Peter”, falls on his knees and immediately sets a distance with Jesus: I am a sinful man, o Lord! I’m not worthy of you! Depart from me! First he calls him “master”, now he calls him “Lord”. We are always convinced of a judge and severe God, we are always far from the Jesus of the wedding at Cana, who responds to our desire of joy by multiplying the wine! If we see its prodigies, we immediately do not consider ourselves equal to God. In Peter we are all frightened, after all. Only when Peter will have true awareness of his sin, not just beating his breast on the facade, will he meet the true face of the merciful Christ. But here we are on the first call.
We are called not because we are good at fishing, but we are called in our sin, in our limitations, in failure. We are called to experience fruitfulness by listening to the word, we are not good “a priori”, but the skill lies in recognizing ourselves “caught” by Jesus. The amazement, the contemplation, takes him and all the others, it is an intimate but also community prayer. The answer of Jesus, present in the Bible 365 times, is “do not be afraid”. Every day, throughout the year, God tells us “do not be afraid”. The call is in failure, in recognizing oneself as a sinner. You too will do the same with the others: “you will be catching men”, literally “fisher of men”, “hunter for life” would be better, the original term indicates the action of hunting not intended to feed on prey, but only to capture a live prey. It is not a question of fishing to kill men, but to save them from the lies of the world!
The boats are brought back to earth, and the apostles leave all things. They found a treasure, they found someone for whom it is worth leaving everything, that is, leaving nothing, undressing like Francis in the court of Assisi, and following Christ, everything. Remembering the words of the Poverello in the stupendous paraphrase of Our Father, we are invited like fishermen to do God’s will in the word: “Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: so that we love you with all our hearts, always. thinking of you; with all our soul, always desiring you; with all our mind, directing all our intentions to you and in everything seeking your honor; and with all our strength, spending all our energy and sensitivity of soul and body at the service of your love and for nothing else; and so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves, dragging everyone with all our power to your love, enjoying the goods of others as well as ours and suffering together with them and causing no offense to anyone “(FF 270). We always thank the Lord for the gift of the nets, today, which lead us out of the abyss through his saving word, and we pray that we become docile to this word, and in turn we can bring salvation to our brothers and to our common home. We sincerely wish you a happy Sunday.