Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”
We all know how hard it is to fail, to feel useless, to find ourselves empty-handed and full of frustration deep within. There are failures at work, in married life, in business, in studies, in relationships with others. Failure is an experience that is part of the human condition. Simon uses two strong words to describe his failure: “night” and “nothing”.
The Night is related to death; when it comes the light is gone, there is no sense of direction and all sorts of worries arise. The Nothing is synonymous with absence and emptiness; when it takes over the heart, then sadness and depression set in; we lose our zest for life and no longer feel passionate about anything — we feel that nothing has any meaning anymore.
Jesus chooses to climb precisely into that boat — empty of fish and illusions — to turn it into a pulpit from which he will speak to the people. Jesus approaches our misery to show his mercy; he enters into our failures to uplift us and give us confidence; he takes in his hands the poverty of the boat that is our life, inviting us to set sail again.
Simon, who was an experienced, professional fisherman, made Jesus see how unreasonable his proposal was. Any fisherman knows that fishing is done at night. It made no sense for Simon to try to fish in the daytime, especially after the failure of the previous night.
Despite Simon’s reluctance, despite the Night and the Nothing of his experience, Jesus insists and invites him to enter the lake, to put out into the deep, and cast his nets for a catch.
Simon doesn’t let himself be influenced by his empty nets, nor does he remain a slave to his feeling of failure; rather, he trusts in Jesus and his word: “if you say so, I will let down the nets” (Lk 5:5). Trusting in Jesus’s presence and his word, Simon Peter entered the lake with his small and fragile boat.
They cast their nets and the result was extraordinary. They “caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break,” so much so that they called for help from other boats, which were filled with so many fish, “that they began to sink” (Lk 5:6–7).
If we trust in Jesus’s word and allow him to enter the boat that is our life, even if we have experienced failure, even if we feel that we have nothing to offer him, he transforms our existence, renews it, and makes it fruitful.
In the failures of our lives, both on a personal and social level, we must turn our eyes to Jesus, listen to him, and cast our nets, trusting in his word.
Jesus doesn’t want us to be failures, victims of the Night and of the Nothing. Faith in Jesus doesn’t eliminate our difficult journeys, futile nights, and empty nets. There will always be moments of weariness and darkness, frustration and sadness, but with him, we will never be left with empty hands, a sad face, and a heart embittered by disappointment.
Supported by Jesus’s word, we’ll always sail again; we’ll never be without light in the night; we’ll be strong in weakness and fruitful in failure.
Silvio José Báez, o.c.d.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (excerpts)
6 February 2018
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.