Caught In The Net

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year C, RCL

Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11

The Miraculous Draught of Fish by Raphael 1515, body color on paper laid onto canvas. The Raphael cartoons are designs for tapestries and were commissioned from Raphael by Pope Leo X (1513-21) in 1515. The tapestries were intended to hang in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, built by one of Leo's predecessors Pope Sixtus IV (1471-84). The Chapel was primarily intended for the use of the Pope and the Papal chapel, the body of clergy and Laity immediately surrounding him. The decoration of the chapel under Sixtus dealt largely with the theme of the Pope's authority. The tapestries continued this theme, illustrating scenes from the lives of St. Peter and St. Paul who were seen as the founders of the Christian Church, and the sources of the Pope's authority and power. They had in addition woven borders showing scenes from Leo's life, also designed by Raphael: the cartoons for these have not survived. [Public domain]

Who am I? Nobody really. I’m just a simple fisherman who works for my dad. I’m not even the best fisherman; I have friends that are much better than I. Today I was sitting in my boat cleaning my nets after a long night of fishing. All of the sudden this guy; this strange guy who has been going on about his religious ideas climbs in my boat. Oh, I’ve seen him around. He’s a bit loud, gets the people really worked up. Some say he might be a prophet but I don’t have much time for his nonsense and never paid too much attention to him before today.

So he got in my boat. I have no idea why my boat, for there were plenty of others to choose from. But he got into mine and asked me to push out so his voice will carry over the still morning water; so the crowd could hear him better. Now I don’t even know why I did what he asked. I guess I’m just a nice kind of guy and, anyway, I could keep working on my nets while he did his thing.

I quickly realized that this guy was different, the way he was speaking about God rang true in my heart. I found myself listening to what he was saying instead of working on my net. I hope my dad won’t get too angry with me. The net needs to be ready by the next tide and he’ll think I was hanging around with my friends avoiding my work. Anyway, after this guy gets done raving at these people he asks me to row further out into the deep water. What is he thinking? I have work to do.

I guess I just like to please people too much and I did what he said. Anyway the day is rather pleasant. He looked a bit tired from all his shouting and maybe we can take a siesta in the breeze away from the crowd. When we get to the deeper water he asks me to throw out my net. This is when I told him that he was crazy. I had fished these waters just a few hours ago and didn’t catch a thing. Not only are there no fish here but I have cleaned most of the net. Now he wants me to though it in the water? I may not be the best fisherman but I don’t think this guy has a clue about fishing.

Despite it all, I did what he asked. It was stupid. It made no sense. But the next thing I know…I’m pulling in my net and there are more fish than I have ever seen before. My net was so heavy, you could feel that the rope and knots straining to their breaking point. One thing I know for sure; this guy was no fisherman. He was no help as he sat in the boat without a care in the world while I tried to keep my nets together and the boat from capsizing. I yelled for help and some other fishermen came. Thank God they did.

Now all of our boats were filled with fish to the point of being swamped. This is when I realized that what the people said was true. This is no ordinary man! He’s a prophet, maybe the Messiah; I don’t know but he is definitely a holy man, a man of God. How can I, a fisherman, who know more about the ways of the world and the sea than God, how can I be in his presence? So in front of friends and strangers, I drop to my knees and tell him that he must go. I am not the type of person for him to be around. For who am I? Nobody really. This strange man responds to my plea. He said I’m exactly the type of person he is looking for. At that moment, I felt called to learn and follow him so that I could help in his mission.

Today, I look back to when this story took place. I can’t even remember what he was teaching the people from the boat. As for me, I don’t think that his teaching was what is really important. What is important is the net.

The net I used that day was a trolling net. It has floats on the top and weights along the bottom. The net drags behind the boat catching all that is in its way. A net like this catches good fish, inedible fish, seaweed, twigs, and any other debris that might be floating in the water. Cleaning the net meant I would remove these miscellaneous things that got stuck in it; because if they were left in, they would ruin the net over time. That day, this man who I now know as Jesus, caught me in his net. I may not be the sticks and twigs, but I’m rather ordinary; definitely not the prized fish.

The day Simon got collected, Jesus wasn’t looking for the pious people, he wasn’t looking for the sinless, he wasn’t looking for the sinful. He wasn’t looking for the poor or the wealthy. He wasn’t looking for anyone in particular. The net Jesus casts is indiscriminate, just like the net Simon put into the waters that day. Jesus’ net captures all kinds of people from all over the world. And ideally, this is what we should find in our churches.

Everyone who gets caught in this net is called by Christ to do work, building the kingdom of God. This vocation isn’t based on our dreams or aspirations. It may not even be based on what we think our gifts and talents are. When we feel a call we often don’t think we are worthy. Simon said I can’t follow you I’m a sinful man. Isaiah, in a similar fashion, says “Woe is me…for I am a man of unclean lips.” Even Moses, at the burning bush, said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”[1] God does not call us because we are especially gifted for the task. And though we have the choice to refuse, God doesn’t seem to like excuses.

God would not accept Moses’ excuse, so Moses tries several more times. He says the people will not believe me. Latter he says, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent…I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”[2] And finally, when none of his excuses work out, Moses like so many of us tries to push our call onto others. “O my Lord, please send someone else.”[3] In the end, God shows Moses that his brother will help him but the mission is his.

Following God’s call often comes with apprehension. We wonder, who am I? Why me? I don’t have time. Maybe I can get a friend to do it. Or how about the priest, this is right up his alley. Like so many of the prophets and apostles, God ultimately gives us the choice to accept the mission, the calling, or to leave it. And for many of those who leave it, they will find over time that they are called by God again.

Taking up a call isn’t easy. You may not know how it will work out, but it is your call and there are many people who are willing to support you in your call. We have friends, neighbors, this parish, and the community beyond who are eager to support you in various ways. But the call that you feel, the work that you know should get done, remains yours.

May God bless us with the eagerness to serve him in all that he asks. Amen.


[1] Exodus 3:11

[2] Exodus 4:10

[3] Exodus 4:13

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