By Hailey Menkhus
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening
to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command, I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
In this Gospel reading, Jesus is speaking to a crowd when he gets into a boat near the shore, sits down, and continues teaching. When he finishes, he tells Simon to lower his nets again for a catch. Simon, frustrated from a day of catching nothing but, trusting Jesus, agrees to once again lower his nets. He pulls out an extremely bountiful catch. At this, Simon Peter sees Jesus for what he is and says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus does not depart from him. He replies, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men,” and Simon Peter, James, and John leave their lives behind to follow Jesus.
When Simon truly sees what Jesus is, his first reaction is that he is not worthy of being in his presence because he is a sinner. Jesus is not reading in the temple, to only the holy and pious. Rather, he is teaching the Word of God in public, in a boat, to anyone who will listen. He went out into the world to teach, knowing that many of these people were, in fact, sinful. His response to Simon Peter’s immediate reaction is not to turn away from him to find someone who was not as sinful to follow him, rather it is simply to tell him “Do not be afraid.”
As a convert, I know all too well what it feels like to stray far from God, far enough that I thought for a long time that there was no way I could ever go back or be worthy of being a follower of Christ. Like Simon Peter, I was wrong. As humans, we are sinners. As much as we try, sometimes we mess up. No matter how far we may stray, though, Jesus never sees us as unworthy of being with him so long as we do not choose to reject him. Simon, a self-described sinner, could leave his life behind to follow Christ and to spread his message. This is our call as Christians: to spread this message, not as perfect beings, but as humans, as sinners redeemed.