Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The spirit of the evangelizer

While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. Lk 5,1-11

“Go to the entire world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” Jesus will command to the disciples before ascending to the heaven. Although the Church has been instructed to evangelize the world, not so many Christians feel to have been really instructed by this mandate. Why? …What are the hold-ups which prevent to announce with clearness and courage the message of the gospel?..There is more than one, but the today passage of the miraculous fishing allows to clarify the main hold-up: the lack of  audacity in front of a possible failure and the consequent fear to show-up as a ridiculous person. The today passage brings us on the lake of Gennesaret, in the warm hours of the morning. Some fishermen, after having tried to fish for the entire night, have been back to shore  and are cleaning their nets. Jesus, the new rabbi, still enough famous because of the miracles which he has done in Capernaum, goes close, stands up on the Peter boat and starts to speak to the crowd. Peter does not listen so much to the speech of Jesus, but he is happy because that teaching is addressed from his boat. By the end of the speech, however, there is a surprise for him. Jesus says to him: “Go offshore and put your nets for the catch”.  Peter thinks that this will be useless, because at that hour the fishes do not go around anymore in the lake looking for food and the Teacher, not so expert in fishing, surely does not know that it is not the best moment to fish when the sun is high in the sky. So, by the beginning, he thinks not to follow that rather strange suggestion, not to become ridiculous because of another failure, when the people would have seen him coming back to the shore with an empty boat. These thoughts, together with others, are hidden in the first part of his answer to Jesus. ”Teacher, we fatigued for the entire night and we did not catch anything, …” Subsequently, however, he reacts to the tiredness and to the disappointment for the day, he brings aside these thoughts and he makes a faith act in the person of Jesus:”…but trusting to your word I will lower the nets”. It is the decision which has changes his life. Jesus, at this point, realizes to be in front of a brave man, who is able to accept difficult chances and on whom it is possible to challenge. So Jesus makes the miracle described in the today passage and eventually he announces to Peter: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men”. It is because of this capacity to accept impossible trials that Peter, after the Pentecost, will announce for the first time the gospel to the world: “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem ….You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs …. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it”. (Acts 2,14-24) When a Christian, going over his limits, the possible failures and the risk to result intrusive – if not quite ridiculous – stands up and announces the message of the gospel, the evangelization is born in that moment and the Church fulfils its mandate. Give us, Lord, the audacity of the announcement of the gospel.

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