The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 2, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
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 continue preaching.

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 positive.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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