What does Jesus expect from us? Do you ever think about that? What does our Lord want us to do in our lives, and what does He expect us to offer back to Him?
So often, we turn to God when we need something, when we want something, when we are in trouble or facing a difficult challenge, and we ask for His help. Not as often, though, do many of us pause and reflect on what God is waiting from us. We don’t wrestle with the thought of what we should be doing for God.
Well, in today’s Gospel story, we catch a glimpse of what Christ asks of those who follow Him. Let’s first remember the story. Peter the fisherman just spent an entire night fishing, but with no luck. He caught nothing. After a long, tiring night of fishing, he pulls into a port on the Lake of Galilee, and with his co-fishermen James and John, begins to clean his nets. He must have been frustrated, irritated, and ready to quickly prepare for the next day and go home.
Yet as he’s cleaning his nets, a man is preaching and speaking to a growing crowd. This man, in fact, is the teacher of whom Peter’s own brother Andrew told him about. Suddenly, as the crowd grows too large and begins pushing and shoving, Jesus approaches Peter and asks if he can get in his boat and push off from the coast to give him just enough space away from the people so that he can continue to preach.
Although Peter had heard quite a bit about Jesus from Andrew, he probably felt that Jesus’ request was quite inconvenient. Peter was tired. It had been a long, fruitless morning. He wanted nothing better than to clean his nets and go home. Yes, he heard good things about Jesus, but not today. He didn’t want this imposition today!
As Jesus preached from his boat, Peter had no other choice than to listen to him. He had heard Andrew talk about Jesus. He probably heard others talk about him as well, but today, maybe for the first time, Peter gave his full attention and listened carefully to his words. And as Jesus spoke, something moved within Peter. He couldn’t understand what was happening, but the words of Jesus powerfully touched his soul. Suddenly, Jesus stopped talking, and looked right at Peter. “Go, push the boat further into the sea and throw down your nets.” Peter looked confused. He was reflecting on the words of this teacher, and didn’t quite understand what he was saying. “Do you want me to go fishing once again, in the middle of the day? We just spent an entire night and morning trying to catch fish, and we came up with nothing. Why would we go now, in the middle of the day? Who goes fishing in the heat of the day? There won’t be any fish for the catch!”
“Maybe Jesus knows something about preaching, since He teaches with such authority and touches the hearts of people with his love. All that is well and good, but what does this carpenter from Nazareth know about fishing?!?” Peter was probably thinking about his clean nets, and really didn’t want to go back out for another futile trip at sea. Despite his hesitation and doubt, however, Peter obeyed. He would listen to Jesus even when he was sure Jesus was wrong!
Imagine his reaction when they come across an unbelievable shoal (multitude) of fish! There were so many fish that Peter had to call his partners at the shore to come quickly and help him pull them all in. How could this be? Peter was a lifelong fisherman, and never had encountered quite a catch, especially in the middle of the day. Something was strange and unusual here. What connection did this catch of fish have to do with Jesus? Was it just a coincidence, or was there something else miraculous?!?
As Peter paused from pulling in the fish, he looked at Jesus in a different way. Does this man have some power over the fish of the seas? Does he have some special relationship with Yahweh the Creator? Why did he get into my boat, and then why did he send me out to the sea? Whatever was extraordinary about this entire episode Peter didn’t know, but he realized one thing. There was something exceptional about Jesus, and Peter the simple fisherman knew that he was not worthy to be around him. So Peter blurts out to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man”.
This entire affair creates the setting for Peter’s call, for Jesus to lay out before Simon Peter what was expected of him. “Do not be afraid Peter. From now on you will become a fisher of men. You will begin catching people instead of fish!”
And here was the Call. Jesus was asking Peter to come and follow Him. He was challenging Peter to leave everything he knew and everything with which he was comfortable – his boat, his fishing, his livelihood, even his family – to leave everything and begin following Jesus. But to follow him where? It might be interesting to live with Jesus, and to learn from him, but who was Peter to become a companion of Jesus? And what would Jesus expect from him?
The entire setting seemed so unusual for Jesus to call an uneducated fisherman to become one of his first followers and disciples, yet maybe it sets an example for each one of us. Jesus looks at the heart of every individual and sees the vast potential that lies untapped. He challenges us to become what God has created each of us to be – beloved children of God who can become His instruments in sharing His love with the world around us.
Christ’s call transformed Peter. “No longer will you be a fisherman, but from now on you will become a fisher of men. You will become my apostle, the one I send out into the world to invite people into my heavenly kingdom. From being a fisherman in Galilee, I am calling you to become my ambassador to the world.” What a radical change in Peter’s life. It was something he never expected, and something for which he felt quite unworthy. Yet he accepted in humility, and became a mighty instrument in God’s hand.
Do we ever think of what God expects from us? Do we stay attentive and open in our prayers, sincerely asking God what He wants from us? Christ’s call to Peter was one that includes all followers of Jesus. Yet are we ready to upset our comfortable lives, and do whatever He asks? To become instruments in His hands, fishing for others and helping them discover the treasures of the Kingdom of God?
Peter’s life drastically changed in ways he never dreamed of, yet it changed for the better. May we be open to such change, and willingly follow Christ in faith, offering our own lives to Him and working with Him in bringing about His love and peace to the world around us.