In today’s Gospel, we see the familiar passage in which Jesus works a miracle with the fishermen’s catch, and tells Peter (then called Simon) that rather than being a fisherman he is going to become a ‘fisher of men.’ This moment when Simon Peter leaves everything and follows Jesus is one that many Christians are familiar with, but perhaps one that they don’t feel a personal connection with.
To help us understand how this Gospel passage is relevant to our own lives, Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg of the Archdiocese of Seattle stopped by Morning Air® to reflect on the Gospel reading and how, rather than feeling comforted by the familiarity of the story, this Gospel should push us out of our comfort zones.
On the context that this Gospel passage takes place in, Bishop Mueggenborg said, “That first disciple to be called is Peter himself. And Jesus does so not only in the context of fishing, but He does so in the context of an existing friendship with Peter. And that is telling us something about how the Lord both wants to use our lives and how it is that Jesus enters into our lives one step at a time. Always inviting us to let Him affect more of our relationship and our involvements.”
Bishop Mueggenborg pointed out that Jesus and Peter were already friends, but this exchange shows us that we are not called to simply be friends with Jesus. Like Peter, we must all be willing to give our whole selves to the Lord, constantly deepening our relationship with Him.
“Anytime we feel that our relationship with Christ is happening in a contained, or a comfortable, or a controlled way, then we need to know that we’re stifling that relationship,” he said. “Jesus wants to grow more deeply in relationship with us. And so the Lord is always inviting us to take the next step.”
“We see Jesus casually asking Peter to use his boat for just a moment, just to teach the crowds, and Peter’s fine with that,” he continued. “But then Jesus begins to direct his fishing efforts, to actually take over his professional skills and talents and to put them to work for the use of the Gospel. And that’s when Jesus’ presence in Peter’s life becomes an all-encompassing, active discipleship.”
Just as Jesus called Peter to use his skills in service of the Gospel, we all should take a look at the gifts and talents we use every day in our work and see how we can use those same talents in service to the Gospel and those in need.
“Sometimes I think that we tend to minimize that comment of Jesus when He says to Peter, ‘From now on you will be a fisher of men,'” said Bishop Mueggenborg. “You know, Jesus wasn’t just doing a cute little play on words because Peter was a fisherman, but rather what Jesus is saying to Peter is, ‘You have these well-defined and well-honed skills that you have used for years for your industry and as part of your livelihood. Those are the skills of teamwork, hard work, coordination with others, figuring our where the fish are and going after them, and being willing to get up early in the morning to do that. Those skills are going to be very important in the work of ministry. So you put all of those skills to work now for the good of the Gospel.’ That’s what Jesus is saying to Peter. It’s more than just a play on words, it’s really an all-encompassing, refocusing of Peter’s life.”
But when we are called out of our comfort zones, there is generally at least some fear involved. We see in this passage that Peter himself was afraid, and we may experience similar fears when we are called into deeper relationship with the Lord.
“Whether it be fear of failure, fear of insufficiency, fear of hard work, fear of sacrifice, fear of persecution. Whatever it us, there are tons of fears that can cause us to shy away from being involved in active discipleship and missionary outreach,” Bishop Mueggenborg said.
“But we need to remember that the most common statement of Jesus in the Gospels is when Jesus says, ‘Be not afraid.’ Because fear will paralyze disciples. And rather than listening to our fears and giving in to those shortcomings or concerns, we need to always remember that being a disciple is about what God can do through our lives and not what we do on our own. Once we learn to trust in the Lord’s grace, then we can learn to move forward with Jesus in freedom, and not be held back based upon past failures, or our current misperceptions.”
Listen to the full conversation below: