As Jesus begins his ministry in St. Luke’s Gospel, he starts by teaching and preaching as he makes his way along the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret (Sea of Galilee). There, he encounters Simon Peter, James and John, who, as fishermen, have been working hard all night and day. They have not met with much success. Jesus climbs into Simon Peter’s boat and encourages him to set out a bit from shore so that Jesus might better address and teach the crowd who has followed him. Up to that moment, Simon Peter and his co-workers, James and John, have been going about their business as fishermen. It’s what they know how to do and it is, until their encounter with Jesus, their way of life and the means by which they support themselves.
After teaching the crowd, Jesus encourages Simon Peter to set out into the deep water and cast his nets for a catch. Although skeptical, Peter does as Jesus encourages. The miraculous catch of fish that ensues is enough to demonstrate to Simon Peter that Jesus is Lord. Peter, James and John leave their boats and nets behind and follow after Jesus.
How long had the three worked as fishermen? Was fishing a family business or was it something they had picked up along the way? The Scriptures are silent about details such as these, but one thing is clear.
On the day of their encounter with Jesus, the fishermen Peter, James and John are just being themselves – doing something they likely have done for some time. That day, though, along comes Jesus, who calls out to Peter. In fact, Jesus not only calls out to Simon Peter, but he calls Simon Peter out of himself. In calling out to Simon Peter, Jesus calls Peter from the life and the work he had once known, to the way of life that would forever change the lives of Peter, James, John and all those who respond to the Lord’s call. Their lives – and our own – would never be the same.
Each of the young people you will meet this month has heard and answered the Lord’s call to them. Jesus has called them from their former way of life to new awareness and new ways of serving the Body of Christ. The life of each one has been changed as each has responded to Jesus. Like those first disciples on a faraway lakeshore, each has had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. Each has made a positive choice to follow the Lord. Each one is different because of their response to God’s call.
Just as these young people have heard and answered the Lord’s call, they offer us grown-ups an example, as well as a challenge. Can we do as they have done? Can we do as Simon Peter, James and John did and set aside our fear and uncertainty, permitting the Lord to call us out of ourselves, out of our sometimes narrow view of who we think we are called to be, to that deep water where a great catch of fish is waiting to be hauled ashore? Young people like Brendan, Molly, Bayley, Jeff, Beth, Zach and so many others in our parish communities are examples of what can happen when we hear and respond to the Lord’s call. They show us the joy and deep satisfaction that come from leaving our nets behind.
Jesus is calling out to each of us, just as surely as he did to Simon Peter, James and John. He is calling each of us to new life. How will we respond? And so, our journey in FAITH continues.