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Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Luke 5:1-11

When Peter fell on his knees and said to the Lord, “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man,” he and his brother Andrew, James and John were still working as fishermen. They hadn’t given up their profession of fishing entirely. They must have been more tired than usual for they had been fishing all night and caught nothing. After Jesus had finished speaking to the crowd He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.” From Peter’s reply it appears he thought it would be pointless. Now was not the right time to fish. The best time for fishing had passed with the cool hours before dawn. But Peter was gracious enough to do as the Lord asked. He said, “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.” The four fishermen were amazed at the abundant catch of fish. Peter, the “expert”, learned a lasting lesson about trusting the sacred word of the Lord. It is difficult to follow faith’s advice in daily life, especially when we feel competent and well informed. Peter humbly learned that his knowledge of catching fish was nothing compared to that of Jesus, Who made the fish. Peter learned on this occasion that Jesus knows all things and his meagre knowledge was not a match for his.

On this occasion Peter found himself deeply disturbed by the presence of Jesus. In fact he was so disturbed that he said, “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” That experience is not peculiar to Simon Peter. Anyone who has studied Christ and grown to love and admire Him has realised that He is just way above us; He is in a league all on His own. We begin to be grateful that this unique Person should stoop to care for us and love us sinners.

When we examine the message of the Sermon on the Mount we find in it the loftiest ethical sayings that the world has ever heard. He tells us to ‘love our enemies’. We barely know how to love our friends, we have no thought of loving our enemies. When it comes to our enemies the world would say, ‘if you can’t get one

over your enemies and least get even.’ To do so would be to show your strength. To Jesus it would be showing your weakness. Jesus says, ‘Do good to those who hate you.’ We think, ‘Why should I do something nice for someone who hates me? He doesn’t deserve it, and besides that, I run the risk of looking a fool for having done it.’ Again Jesus says, ‘If a man compels you to go with him one mile, go two miles with him.’ Our attitude so often is to do the bare minimum and nothing more, certainly not go another mile. The contrast between how we live and what Jesus taught is disturbing. If we have never felt that, then we have never taken Him seriously.

The same is true when we think of Jesus as an example to be followed. Peter witnessed the patience of Jesus when He suffered, and he called it an example that we should follow. Think of the life He lived. He never swerved from the will of God, even though it led Him to a cross. All through His Passion He was meek like a lamb being led to the slaughter. He never yielded to hate. He prayed for those who mocked Him as He died on the Cross. When we take Jesus seriously and look at His teaching, His example and spirit we see that He can be the most forbidding figure imaginable. This is what Peter was feeling, a virtual sense of despair, when he looked at his own life in comparison with Jesus. The New Testament does not leave Peter in that position. Follow the story of his life and you will find him rising above his sense of shame to face life with confidence and courage.

The change came when Peter thought past Jesus as Teacher and Example, and began to see Him as a Saviour. What an immense difference that made. If Jesus is only our Ideal, that can be terribly discouraging, but if He is our Saviour, then the door of hope begins to open. A Saviour is what we all need. To tell us to admire Jesus as the great Ideal does not always help, for He is so far beyond us that the temptation is to give up and say, “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” When we recognise Him as our Saviour then we look upon Him as not only leading us but walking by our side and encouraging us along the way of life. When we fall, He is there to help us. Should we wound

ourselves through sin He is the great Physician who binds up our wounds and heals them. We know this for certain for the angel declared this at His conception, “You shall call Him Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins.”

So, let us have Jesus as our Ideal and Example, let His teaching guide our lives, but above all let us never forget that He our Saviour. Though we are sinful, we never want Him to leave us.

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