THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
I’m no fisherman. Growing up, going fishing while on holidays, it was always the most unlucky fish that ended up being caught my me. And I certainly never caught enough for a meal! My lack of success does not diminish my admiration for the amateur who first finds the worms or other bait and then patiently waits for a nibble at the end of the line.
But it is one thing to be an amateur fisherman when casting your line is a recreational pastime and any catch is a bonus. It is another thing to make fishing your livelihood where you depend on the catch each day to feed your family and earn a living. For one thing, it is a pretty big outlay buying a boat and maintaining all the gear. Then there is all the risks of casting off and venturing out onto unpredictable waters in all types of weather. Finally, there is the investment of long and monotonous hours with the real possibility of getting little or no reward.
We get a fishing story in this weekend’s gospel. The story of Peter and his colleagues pulling out into deep water and casting their net is a story we all know well. But it has only dawned on me that Peter and his colleagues were the equivalent of modern day commercial fishermen. They knew their business, they knew all the tricks of their trade, they knew the risks involved. After slogging it out all night and catching next to nothing, I imagine it would have been quite annoying for Peter to hear Jesus’ request to “put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”. Knowing Peter’s robust personality, I wonder if the gospel writer has sanitized the conversation between Jesus and Peter?
Whatever the case, Peter agreeing to lower his nets at Jesus’ urging was, for a fisherman of Peter’s experience, an act of considerable faith. No doubt Peter was as surprised as any with the result. Yet the incredible catch could only take place if Peter was prepared to pay out his nets in deep water. Jesus was very specific about it! It is a great image because most of us, I dare say, prefer the safety and predictability of shallow water. We can paddle around confident that dry land is nearby.
Yet it is only by venturing into the deep water, risking our own security and comfort, overcoming our discouragement and the ridicule and doubts of others that we stand a chance of catching anyone in the “net” of God’s love and forgiveness.
At the end of our journey, when we reflect upon our life, we don’t want our story to be about “the one that got away” because we were not trusting enough to cast our nets into deep water!
Fr Peter Brannelly