Fr. Ver Bust's Column:|
"Explaining the Gospel"
|Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Simon will catch people in his new life
Simon catches fish because of Jesus and will catch people through God
February 3-4, Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Fr. Richard Ver Bust
The Sea of Galilee or as Luke calls it, Lake Gennesaret, plays an
important part in the story of Jesus and his ministry in Galilee.
The sea or really lake is 700 feet below sea level and is 13
miles long and 7 miles wide. So it is smaller than Lake Winnebego
but like our Wisconsin lake is very rich in fish. Many people
made their livelihood by fishing on the lake.
Jesus had been preaching the Word of God along the lake when he
saw two fishing boats on the shore. Luke probably borrowed this
story from Mark, in particular 4:1-2, but gives it his own unique
twist. Simon, the Jewish name of Peter, is central to the story.
Note that in this story his companions are there but in the
background. They are there to help Simon.
Fishermen, in that society, might be considered middle class.
Unlike many others who were tenant farmers, they owned the boats
they used for fishing and therefore were independent.
Luke shows Simon in a very special way. He must have known how
highly respected Simon was in the early Christian community. He
eliminates many of the negative remarks that Mark had made about
Simon. Later Jesus will pray for him and will appear to him after
the resurrection. Now we encounter Simon as a fishermen. Jesus
seems to have known him previously and asks Simon to pull the
boat from shore. Jesus uses the boat as kind of a pulpit to
At the end of his preaching, Jesus tells Peter to go out into a
deeper spot and lower his nets. Peter knows the purpose would be
to fish. Now he and his companions had been out fishing the night
before, supposedly, the best time for fishing. He reminds Jesus
of this, but he does as Jesus asks. Almost immediately the nets
are full of fish.
This event, in Luke, is the call of the first disciples at the
beginning of Jesus' ministry. Like the story in John, Simon
recognizes Jesus in the wonderful catch of fish. In John, Simon
will be commissioned to continue Jesus' ministry. Luke uses the
story in a similar way in the expression "from now on you will be
catching men." Luke puts it at the beginning of Jesus' work. Note
how first Simon had addressed Jesus as Master probably in the
sense of a rabbi. Now he calls him, Lord. Luke has transposed
events but he also wishes to show how Simon grows in faith.
This expression "fishers of men" probably indicates the sense of
drawing people to Jesus and bringing them the new life that Jesus
had promised. Jesus had preached the Word of God and soon Peter
will be preaching the Word of Jesus for the one who was
proclaiming the Kingdom of God, after the resurrection, would be
proclaimed for what he had done. Through the Word people would
receive new life.
In Luke's story, Simon catches fish because of Jesus. In his
future work catching people will not be Simon's own doing but
that of God. So our story ends with Simon and his companions
leaving their old life of fishing for a new life. We can not be
sure that it was that abrupt for Luke often portrayed things in
an ideal or visionary way. Unlike the people of Nazareth who had
rejected Jesus, Jesus found in these people a response that is
(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious
studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)