Thursday of the Twenty-Second Week in Ordinary Time
Reading 1 1 COR 3:18-23
Let no one deceive himself.
If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age,
let him become a fool, so as to become wise.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God,
for it is written:God catches the wise in their own ruses,and again:The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you,
Paul or Apollos or Cephas,
or the world or life or death,
or the present or the future:
all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.
Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1BC-2, 3-4AB, 5-6
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it.
Alleluia MT 4:19
Come after me, says the Lord,
and I will make you fishers of men.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Art: “Miraculous draught of fish” (1610) oil on wood by Peter Paul Rubens
Gospel LK 5:1-11
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
• Luke 5, 1-3: Jesus teaches from the boat. People look for Jesus in order to listen to the Word of God. Many persons get together around Jesus, they make a throng around him. And Jesus seeks help from Simon Peter and from some of his companions who had just returned from fishing. He goes into the boat with them and responds to the expectation of the people, communicating to them the Word of God. Sitting down, Jesus takes the attitude of a Teacher and speaks from a fisherman’s boat. The novelty consists in the fact that he teaches, not only in the Synagogue for a choice public but in any place, where there are people who wish to listen, even on the seashore.
• Luke 5, 4-5: “But if you say so, I will pay out the nets”. When he had finished speaking, he addresses himself to Simon and encourages him to fish again. In Simon’s response there is frustration, tiredness and discouragement: “Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing!” But trustful in Jesus’ word, they throw in the nets again and continue the struggle. The word of Jesus has greater force for them than the experience of frustration of that night!
• Luke 5, 6-7: The result is surprising. The catch is so abundant that the nets are about to tear and the boat begins to sink. Simon needs the help of John and of James who are in the other boat. Nobody is complete in himself, alone. One community has to help the other. The conflict among the communities, both at the time of Luke as well as today, should be overcome in order to attain a common objective, which is the mission. The experience of the force of the word of Jesus which transforms is the axis around which the differences are embraced and overcome.
• Luke 5, 8-11: “Be fishermen of men”. The experience of the closeness of God in Jesus makes Peter understand who he is: “Leave me Lord, I am a sinful man!” Before God we are all sinners. Peter and his companions are afraid and, at the same time, they feel attracted to Jesus. Jesus drives away fear: “Do not be afraid!” He calls Peter and commits him to the mission, ordering him to be a fisherman of men. Peter experiences, quite concretely, that the word of Jesus is like the word of God. It is capable to bring about what it affirms. In Jesus those rough and tough labourers will have an experience of power, of courage, of trust. And so then, “they will abandon everything and follow Jesus!” Up until now it was only Jesus who announced the Good News of the Kingdom. Now other persons will be called and involved in the mission. This way in which Jesus works, in ‘equipe’, in a team is also Good News for the people.
• The episode of the catch of fish along the lake indicates the attraction and the force of the Word of Jesus. He attracts people (Lk 5, 1). He urges Peter to offer his boat to Jesus to be able to speak (Lk 5, 3). The word of Jesus is so strong that it overcomes the resistance in Peter, it convinces him to throw the nets into the sea again and there is the miraculous catch (Lk 5, 4-6). It overcomes in him the will to leave Jesus and attracts him to become a “fisherman of men” (Lk 5, 10). This is the way the Word of God acts in us, up until now!
Most of us are familiar with the scene in John chapter 21 where Jesus tells the disciples to cast their net on the right side of the boat to catch a bounty of fish. There’s a great deal of symbolic meaning here that I believe is missed. In today’s post we’ll look at this scene in detail and dissect its deeper, esoteric meanings, and how it relates to the journey of the soul.
Chapter 21 is the last chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus has already been crucified and resurrected, and he decides to show himself to his disciples on a few occasions before the final ascension. Chapter 21 concludes the Gospel of John with Jesus’ third and final appearance (at least according to this gospel). It’s as if Jesus was coming to give his farewell address to the disciples and give them the encouragement they needed to carry on, especially Peter, who, as we already know from a former blog post, represents man’s lower nature and ego that has evolved so much. He becomes the focal point in this last chapter of John for good reason—it is the lower ego that must be united with the higher, spiritual ego for the ascension. In order for this to happen, we must go through a myriad of new experiences, constantly interpreting and assimilating new thoughts and emotions. Such is the meaning of life and the evolution of our consciousness.
Let’s look at a couple of verses in detail to Biblically prove this point, beginning when the disciples decide to go fishing after Jesus has been absent from them:
“Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They [the other disciples] say unto him, We go along with thee. They went forth, and entered into the ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3).
I need to point out a few important symbols here. Peter represents the lower nature. The other disciples are qualities of the soul that compel the lower nature and ego to evolve through time and experience. That is why Peter is emphasized in the text as the one who decides to go fishing and the other disciples promise to go with him; the lower ego leads us when we are young and spiritually immature.
The ship is a symbol of the lower mind, which tosses on the waves and seas (turmoil of life) to learn and grow. The fact that they fished at “night” is also significant. The night represents our potential for growth, and it is during the night hours that we struggle. And finally, fish symbolize the emotions, ideas, and concepts we experience in life.
With that being explained, let’s move on to the greater meaning of this scene.
“But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus” (John 21:4).
Jesus, shortly to become the ascended Christ, comes in the morning. As you might have guessed, the morning is time for refreshing. It symbolizes moving energy and spiritual growth. The ascended Jesus here is the power of the Christ within, which is now the power that the disciples (soul qualities) and Peter (natural man, ego) need to bear a multitude of fish (higher emotions and ideas) to blossom and evolve. At first Jesus is hidden from them, just as the Christ within is hidden from the ego and natural mind. All of this is further evidenced by what Jesus asks and does in the following scenes:
“Then Jesus [the power of the Christ within] said,Children, have ye anymeat? They answered him, no” (John 21:5).
I have bolded two key words which will help us in our final conclusions. Notice how Jesus calls them children. Children represent the new higher mental faculties and emotions which only the Christ can bear within us. The text is setting us up for a development in the soul. I have also bolded the word “meat.” Meat is a symbol for higher knowledge and emotions which are directly responsible for the soul’s growth. Thus far, the disciples have walked with Jesus throughout his ministry. They have witnessed his power through the crucifixion and resurrection (potential for the higher, or spiritual ego). They are now ready to evolve, and eat meat. But they can’t do it alone. They need the power of the Christ within, or the spiritual energy, to bring them to the next phases in spiritual growth.
Next Jesus then tells them:
“…Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes” (John 21:6).
Notice that the text emphasizes throwing the net onto the right side of the boat. The right side, or our intuitive side of the brain, is what we must engage to birth the Christ within. This is also the side of the brain that is affected in meditation and when we go within. In order to draw in a multitude of new growth, of higher emotions and thoughts, we must engage the right side of the brain, which also signifies the outgoing energy of the Christ within.
This is effectively what the disciples have done when they symbolically cast the net on the right side of the boat.
The “net” is also a very important symbol. Let’s go directly to Gaskell’s dictionary to get a concrete definition:
Net for the Catching of Fish: A symbol of the astral mechanism which lies behind the physical organs of the five senses, and serves to collect and differentiate the facts of sensation, passing them on as modes of vibration to the mental plane, whereon they become interpreted to the ego as thoughts and feelings of different kinds of qualities.
In other words, the net symbolizes the astral body, which receives or catches the vibrations given off in the physical world. The astral body is the seat of the lower ego, containing our desires, sensations, and lower emotions, which are relayed to the mental body, and interpreted by our mind. This is some pretty heavy information! This Biblical scene is giving us the key to how we evolve the soul and help birth the Christ within. If the fish symbolize the emotions and ideas of life, we must learn to cast our nets on the right side, meaning we must engage in the types of activities that are conducive to birthing the Christ within, or that potential spiritual energy of a higher vibration and plane in order to evolve mentally and emotionally as physical beings. This Bible scene is telling us that there cannot be any shortcuts here. We develop according to how we process and interpret our experiences in the sea of life!
The gospel tells us that we must, like St Peter, be willing to put out into the deep. This is the advice of Jesus. We are to take risks. St Peter was invited to do just that. He was asked to go beyond discipleship, to be an apostle. It is within this context that today’s gospel speaks of Peter’s call to be Christ’s apostle in the proclamation of the kingdom.
What is it that truly prevents us from taking risks? The primary obstacle is pride. St Peter thought he knew all there was to know about fishing. And he thought that he had tried everything already, and there was no fish, so how could he accept that Jesus knew any more than he did. Indeed, oftentimes we refuse to open our minds to learning from others, because we think we know best. Pride makes us self-sufficient and leads us to think highly of ourselves. Without humility, we cannot learn from others. But as St Paul says, “Make no mistake about it: if any one of you who thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: “The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are: or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise.”
This was the same problem facing the Christians in Corinth. They were clinging to Paul, Apollos and some leaders. As a result, the community became sectarian, each group seeing the others as competitors rather than collaborators. Yet, Paul made it clear that they were not to be idolized because all that they had came from God. They were mere servants and instruments for the Lord. There is nothing to boast about except the grace of God. St Paul says, “So there is nothing to boast about in anything human: Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.”
However, pride can also be manifested in the fear of failure. We do not want to make mistakes. We like to play safe and not get into trouble, especially with our superiors. Too much is at stake. Superiors are also partly to be blamed when subordinates do not take initiatives. Our subordinates might perceive that we do not wish to rock the boat or change the status quo. We are not open to new ways of doing things. For this reason, we produce mediocre leaders and subservient subordinates, without any creativity or zeal.
However, it was faith that saved Peter. He put out into the deep and the miracle of the fish happened. It was so overwhelming an experience. We are told that “… he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners.” We too are called to trust in the Lord and take the risk. We are called to surrender our lives to Him so that He can work miracles in our lives. Faith is to believe in the impossible. Faith is to trust in the inspiration of God. Only when we surrender, can God work miracles in us.
How can this faith be nurtured? Let us take a look at Peter. We are told that he was exposed to the ministry and person of Jesus. He had witnessed how Jesus healed his mother-in-law and many who were sick. But observation is not sufficient. He was not yet ready to be more than a disciple of Jesus. He saw the miracles, but was not converted from within, because it was not his personal conversion.
However in today’s incident, although Peter seemed to be disinterested when Jesus was preaching to the crowd, in truth, he was not simply hearing the teaching of Jesus. He was contemplating all that Jesus said and did. Whilst listening to Jesus’ preaching, he must have been recollecting all the things that Jesus had said and how He acted in His relationship with sinners, the poor and how He healed the sick. He must have been contemplating deeply the message of Jesus for him as well. He was no traditionalist. He was breaking the rules and the customs. He was not a slave to convention, but would reinterpret the practices and teachings more radically. We too are called to contemplate how Jesus was always acting and thinking out of the box. We must understand how Jesus was able to challenge the norms of His time. He must have drawn courage from His faith in His Father.
This reflection prepared Peter for the miraculous catch. By listening to the teaching of Jesus, Peter gradually gained faith in Jesus. Indeed, the miracle happened because of Peter’s act of faith. Through faith, Peter came to a profound experience of God and subsequently discovered himself, his pride and sinfulness. Before Jesus, he recognized the divinity of Christ in Jesus. Thus, “when Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me Lord; I am a sinful man.’“ In that personal experience, which came from contemplation and wonder, he found and experienced the presence of God. It was beyond his imagination that God would take him personally and speak to him in such a personal way.
With that conversion, he was called to proclaim Jesus to the world. He was ready to take risks in being His apostle, knowing that it would not be his strength but the power of God. From that experience, he knew the Lord would work through him. He knew nothing is impossible for God to work. From that moment, “Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.”
We too, if we are to be true apostles of Christ and ready to take the risk of proclaiming the gospel in and out of season, without fear and with boldness, then we must encounter Jesus in a personal manner. We need to pray for a conversion experience, which entails a rediscovery of the mercy and love of God in Jesus for us, bringing about our personal transformation in the way we look at life. It is this surprising advent of God’s grace into our lives that empowers us to proclaim the gospel as such – Good News – in a new, creative and dynamic manner.
Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
Gospel According to Saint Luke 5:1-11
This Gospel passage can be called a literary and religious masterpiece. By careful use of description, dialogue, suspense and emotion, the Evangelist Saint Luke, traditionally thought to have been an artist, paints with words a wonderful portrait of the calling of the Apostles. Saint Luke describes the call that will ultimately determine the vocation of various people who will proclaim the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Saint Luke first stresses that people are crowding around Jesus early on in his ministry in order to hear the word of God. Here is the long-expected Savior in their midst, though they can hardly grasp the full meaning of his presence. Only over time is it clearer to them that Jesus is the Anointed of God, the prophet and beloved Son of God, sharing our human nature but at the same time divine.
Jesus is teaching on the Lake of Gennesaret in Galilee seated in the boat that belonged to Peter. This underlines the fact of the continued presence of the Lord in the apostolic work of the Church, whose Lord will always be present, in goods time and bad. A large crowd listens attentively to Jesus and prefigures the multitudes who will one day form the Church of Christ on earth.
The Gospel text goes on to describe an extraordinary catch of fish at Jesus’ command. It happens in very unfavorable circumstances, after a night of catching nothing on the part of Peter and his companions. What looked like a hopeless situation turns into an amazing success story. But the point is deeper: under the care of the Lord the Church will flourish and many will find their home there. Peter, who will play a central role in the growth of the Christ’s Church, is told he will be a fisher of souls.
For Simon Peter, the first step toward partaking in the future mission of Jesus is a total surrender into the hands of the Lord. The Church will becontinually called to imitate this whole-hearted surrender. “Do not be afraid,” is the message Jesus offers to Peter and that is our assurance as well. We may tend toward fear and flight at times or often, but are called to resist that and to really trust that God is with us, carrying us, leading us in love and gentleness. That should be comfort for one and all in the Church and for those pondering entrance into the barque (boat) of Peter, the Church.
In the face of massive responsibility, Peter understandably confesses his unworthiness and weakness. This sense with probably remained his whole life and may be our experience as well. “Who am I to take on a place in the Church, to be part of Christ’s Body?,” we might ask. The message of Jesus remains constant: do not be afraid. The presence and power of Jesus is always active, and as the one who overcame death by death, we can rest assured that we will not be abandoned or left as orphans. That is unthinkable from God’s perspective.
The same phrase, “Do not be afraid,” is spoken by the Risen Christ to his disciples. Clearly the Lord desires that we be at ease, rest assured of his help and never despair of God’s mercy. This is an important theme in this Jubilee Year of Mercy which Pope Francis has designated for the Universal Church.
The power of Jesus’ word on people is clear in the response of Peter and his companions by their complete surrender and ultimate adherence to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Peter here also symbolizes or stands in for the entire Church as a community called to belong and to be fully committed to Christ our Savior. This is the moment of Peter’s metanoia (change of heart or direction), when the Lord speaks to him personally, but to each apostle and follower of Jesus as well.
Simon Peter was called to be the leader of the apostolic mission of the Lord. Our call may be less lofty, but no less important as “bearers of Christ,” to all those we meet.
The first reading for Mass this Sunday, the call of the great prophet Isaiah, is a prefiguring of what Peter experienced in being called and not feeling not up to the task, but ultimately willing to leave all false security behind and place his life under the care of the Living God. We are called to do likewise.
Today our prayer might be that God’s Holy Spirit fill and inspire the entire Church, laity and clergy alike, with eagerness, wisdom and courage to proclaim Jesus and the message of mercy and hope that Jesus incarnates.
The Holy Spirit of God formed Jesus in the Virgin Mary and assisted the Lord for his mission of salvation to the ends of the earth. This same Holy Spirit works is in the Church today, bestowing the gift of proclaiming God’s Word, despite all human weakness, opposition in the work or fear that those preaching or hearing might encounter. Jesus is saying to the Church today, bowing before him, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will be catching people for eternal life.”
Prior Christian Leisy, OSB
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, New Mexico
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam. Photo credit Ryan Deboodt
Photo below: Volcanic lightning is seen at an eruption of Mount Sakurajima, in this photo taken from Tarumizu city, Kagoshima prefecture, southwestern Japan, in this photo taken by Kyodo February 5, 2016. A Japanese volcano about 50 km (30 miles) from a nuclear plant erupted on Friday, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said, sending fountains of lava into the night sky. Mandatory credit REUTERS/Kyodo
Peace and Freedom
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