Today is the Feast of St. Patrick which has optional readings you can find here.
The scene in the Gospel is familiar – “oh sure, I’ve heard this before, Jesus is calling His disciples to be fishers of men” – perhaps too familiar. As with most scriptures, there is more than meets the eye.
The account begins with a wide-angle view with Jesus in a natural amphitheater with a large crowd. Having Simon Peter take Him in the boat just a little offshore, Jesus can take in the breadth of the crowd as He teaches. There among the crowd are people who have heard of the great things He has done in Nazareth and Capernaum, as well as Pharisees, scribes and officials from Jerusalem. There too are the ones who will become His disciples and follow him.
What is common to all of these people is that they have all had a moment of “epiphany” – that moment when God’s intent is revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We tend to reserve the word epiphany for our celebration following Christmas, but it simply means “revelation.”
If God’s purpose of Sacred Scripture is for God to reveal God’s self, then the Bible is filled with many moments of Epiphany – and many reactions.
The people of Luke’s gospel are often described as being amazed, but not much more. Their reaction does not lead to discipleship. Is it any wonder they want another sign? The Pharisees and Scribes have a different reaction: questions and scrutiny, but it does not lead to discipleship, but rather eventual condemnation.
The focus of the Gospel account quickly moves to events on the boat as everyone else disappears from the narrative. The important interaction is intensely personal – between Jesus and Simon Peter. Even his fishing partners are set in the background. After a night of unproductive fishing, Peter’s moment of epiphany is the miraculous catch of fish. What is his reaction?
Peter’s response is not that different from Mary’s response in the Annunciation. St. Luke essentially has Peter asking the equivalent of “how can this be?”
The pattern is clear for Mary, for prophets like Isaiah, and now for Simon Peter:
- Epiphany – catching of the fish
- Reaction – depart from me I am a sinful man
- Reassurance – do not be afraid
- Commission – from now on you will be catching men
With Peter’s cooperation and assent, all this leads to discipleship. In today’s first reading, Peter is passing on what he has learned in the years of following Christ. Engaged discipleship is characterized by:
- Seriousness about prayer
- Love in action
- Hospitality without grumbling
- Discernment of one’s gifts to for service to the community.
All for one reason: for the greater glory of God.
We have all had our moments of epiphany. Did they lead to active, engaged discipleship? What was your response?