Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is curious that Luke tells of Jesus preaching at the sea of Galilee by using the name Lake of Gennesaret. That name translates to ” a garden of riches.” How fitting that name is as this is where Jesus tells Simon to cast his net over the side for a catch that is so abundant it tears the nets.It is a subtle way of telling the readers about the abundant catch to be made at that lake shore. When Jesus went to preach there, I wonder why he chose first to enlist the help of fishermen and why he went through the steps of first having that fisherman set off a short distance from the shore, and then venturing farther out. Fishermen play such an important part within Jesus ministry, their enlistment can not be simple chance. What qualities did they have that Jesus thought invaluable? The crowds at this shoreline were large, why choose a fisherman that was off to the side listening at a distance? Fisherman would have tended to be somewhat solitary, or at least comfortable with a small community of fellow fisherman. Their work would lead them away from the crowds, and away from much of the commotion of the day. Their lives focused on the sky and the sea. The sky that is the heavens, the dwelling place of the God(s), and the sea that was the dark forbidden place of uncertainty In a way they were suspended between heaven and hell. On a blue sky day being on the water was heavenly, and a sudden storm placed them in a living hell.What a different perspective they had from the city dweller.Perhaps when Jesus had them push a short way off into the water, this placed them into a comfortable place where they could observe the crowds yet still be separated from it. That is how they spent much of their lives as both part of a community, but also a little isolated. That is the perspective they had when listening to Jesus while repairing their nets. Listening yet detached.
Jesus then has that fisherman push off further from the shore into deeper waters. Here is an environment the fisherman is comfortable with, though this time their eyes are not focused on the waters surface but on the crowds. Skills fishermen needed in this environment were the ability to judge both the water and the sky. They needed to maneuver to find their catch and to peer into the water. They needed the skills of Judgement and of observation. They needed to use their boat to shade the suns reflection on that waters surface to see what was beneath so they might know where to lower their nets. When Jesus told Simon Peter to lower his nets, Simon Peter tells him that they fished all night and caught nothing but at Jesus command he would lower his nets. How much different it must have looked fishing on that sea in the sunlight, especially with the reflection of that large crowd dancing on the waters surface. From that distance and perspective they must have looked like the largest of schools of fish surrounding that boat. They dropped their nets and they were full.
It was no accident that Jesus chose fishermen as his disciples. The had the ability to detach themselves from society and view the world from a unique perspective. They were observant from years of reading the waters and peering into those waters to find their catch. These are skills Jesus needed to train his fishers of men.