Homily 5th Sunday Ordinary Time Cycle C February 10, 2019

Do you think Simon Peter, who would go on to become St. Peter, our first Pope, someone crucified upside down according to tradition, and someone the other Apostles would look to as a leader among equals, do you think he really meant what he said when he spoke these words to Jesus, “Depart from me, Lord?” We know he meant every word in the second half of that phrase, “For I am a sinful man.” He was certainly a sinful man for doubting the request of Jesus to toss the net onto the other side of the boat, because the side he chose was not producing any catch. Yet, there’s Simon Peter totally exasperated by the request from someone who knows a thousand times better than him. Exasperated at someone who can see all the fish in the sea, all the souls in the world in one vision, both our personal world and the entire world, guiding us where to locate and throw our nets, never for our demise, but always for our benefit. What does our Lord benefit from Peter catching all the smelly, delicious fish from the Lake of Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee? Do we really think that Christ receives any benefit from leading us to a place each day where we can make a big catch for him? Yes and no, but much more yes. At the end of the day, if Jesus wanted to take that net from Simon Peter’s boat and throw it to the other side without assistance from anyone, and haul in a huge catch, don’t you think the Holy Spirit and his Father in heaven would have helped, and finished the work on their own? Of course! God can do whatever he wants to do on his own, without any assistance from weak, feeble, doubting, crazy human beings. In order to catch us and save us for eternal life and all the joys of heaven, as well as all the Christian joys in this present life, God is quite capable of catching the fish on his own. He’s the best Net-Thrower there is. That’s the “no” answer to needing our assistance. But, as I suspect we know, the “Yes” answer is God’s desire for us, because the “Yes” answer to Jesus receiving some benefit to the daily catch has been happening since the time Simon Peter threw the net to the other side of the boat, even with doubt in his heart. So, I offer a couple thoughts that we love about Jesus in this scene on the lake. First, when our Savior receives many benefits from the catch of fish, so do we. Our lives are intimately tied in with the work of Christ spread throughout the world, where he receives benefits everyday through our actions of love. Every work of mercy, large or small, is not only a catch for our Savior, it’s a catch for us. So, may we stop this foolish thought where it exists that any act of love that a person performs originates from our own power and capacity. Like Colonel Potter used to say on MASH, “That’s a bunch of Horse-Hockey.” Peter tried catching fish all night long on his own and came up empty. That’s the result for anything in our culture without God at the helm. Without our Lord giving the command. But when we heed his command, even with a snicker towards him like the great Peter did, the catch is large. And second, in the words of Simon, “For I am a sinful man.” The most honest and loving words Peter ever spoke. While Simon Peter is denigrating himself for doubting, snickering, and not trusting, our Lord’s heart is smiling at those words of Peter. No wonder why he made St. Peter the leader among equals! Anyone who is capable of looking into the deepness of their soul and openly admit their sinful weakness, that’s the person you want running the operation. It’s this type of healthy spiritual honesty that will cause the Lord to not depart from Peter, and from us too. Our solemn belief is that God doesn’t give up on anyone. Look at St. Paul – the other great Apostle – in this second reading today as he writes about himself; “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am.” Paul created for himself a universe of separation between he and the Lord when persecution was his livelihood. But even a universe of separation was not wide enough where Jesus couldn’t close the gap. There’s no giving up on God’s part, and I’d like to think that all of us here can relate to that truth in a very personal way. He loves us too much, such as unconditionally. But unconditional love is not, “Do whatever you feel like doing.” God’s unconditional love commands us to conversion and repentance. Not to continue to live in sin, like Peter and Paul could have done. But instead to throw the net to the other side of the boat where we find holiness and Christian virtues. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter certainly meant the second half of that spoken reaction, for he was a sinful man doubting the potential catch found in the words of Christ, “Throw the net over there, Peter!” But, “Depart from me?” Not in a million years. Maybe Peter meant these words too, in the moment. But it was a request that was – and still is – impossible for God whose symbol is a Cross. The love that flows from the Cross is far greater than any willingness for God to depart from us. Divine love is far superior to Divine separation, because of a Cross. And the same Simon Peter will come to know this firsthand, upside down, in his love for Christ.