5th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C
What’s one thing that we beat into our kids’ heads over and over and over? To say “thank you.” With a little parental prompting, even the smallest among us can coo out a “tank oo,” so adorably that we swoon. Of course, the words don’t mean the sentiment is fully anchored in the heart, but it’s a start.
In this week’s gospel, Jesus calls Peter from his ordinary life of fishing for sea creatures to an extraordinary life of fishing for men. But before that, Jesus fulfills Simon Peter’s dreams. He fills Peter’s nets so full of fish that the nets start to break. It’s awe-inspiring. But Peter not only doesn’t say “thank you,” he actually begs Jesus to leave him alone: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8)
Peter was scared. He’d been fishing all night and come up empty-handed. Now that the sun is up, Peter’s tired. Then this somewhat famous preacher guy comes along with a riveting teaching that He delivers from Peter’s boat. Now, this man, this guy Peter can’t quite fit into a box, he usurps the one task that is most definitely Peter’s area of expertise, fishing. It’s all a bit disconcerting, actually quite nerve-wracking. Things are not normal and Peter knows it.
Why would you thank someone for turning your life upside down? Why would you invite Him in to keep wreaking havoc? Because that is what Jesus will do. That’s exactly what He came to do, and Peter’s getting a taste of it right now.
So Peter acknowledges Jesus’s superiority by calling Him Lord. Here, Peter uses the word Lord in the sense of Master (a word he also uses to address Jesus), not because he realizes who Jesus is yet. Then Peter asks Him to leave. In a flash, Peter knows if he lets this guy in, the preacher will expose Peter’s dark side. It’s not going to be pretty.
Jesus does know Peter’s foibles, and a lot more of the ugly stuff. But Jesus also knows Peter’s potential. Jesus sees more than Peter ever can because Jesus put it all there to begin with. So Jesus calls him. He reassures Peter and then asks him on an adventure of a lifetime: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
Scripture doesn’t tell us what Peter thought at that point. But it does tell us what Peter did. He left everything and followed Jesus. Just like that, Peter let his life get turned upside down. He risked the exposure of his dark side. And things will never be normal again.
I wonder if Peter said, “Thank you” when he came to see Jesus clearly face-to-face and all was known (1 Corinthians 13:12)? I’m willing to bet Peter’s mother didn’t even have to prompt him.