In this reading about the call of the first disciples, Jesus tells Peter not to be afraid, words repeatedly heard in the Scriptures when a person is called to take up a mission for God. Fr Adrian Graffy reflects.
1 Jesus was standing one day by the lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, 2 when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank. The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats – it was Simon’s – and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking he said to Simon, ‘Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.’ 5 ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.’ 6 And when thy had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, 7 so they signalled to their companions in the other boats to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.
8 When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ 9 For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; 10 so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners. But Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.’ 11 Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.
Other readings: Isaiah 6:1-8 Psalm 137 (138) 1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Luke sometimes presents the gospel stories in a different order from Mark and Matthew. This is the case with this story of the call of the first disciples, which he places after the visits to Nazareth and Capernaum. The story is also fuller than the short accounts in Mark and Matthew. Jesus is preaching ‘the word of God’ when he gets into Simon’s boat in order to teach the crowds from there. The miracle of the enormous catch of fish gives further background to the call of Simon Peter.
Luke makes clear that the disciples had already heard the preaching of Jesus and witnessed his miracles when they left everything to follow him. They respond ‘at the Lord’s word’. They ‘hear the word and put it into practice’.
Simon Peter is deeply aware of his unworthiness, an echo of the call of the prophet Isaiah in the first reading. Jesus responds, ‘Do not be afraid.’ These words are heard repeatedly in the Scriptures when a person is called to take up a mission for God.
Does hearing the word of God make a difference in my life?
Am I able to trust the words of Christ ‘Do not be afraid’?
Let us pray for the courage needed to respond to our vocation.
We ask for the wisdom, courage and love to be ‘fishers of men’.
Rev Dr Adrian Graffy is a member of the Vatican Commission that takes a lead in Bible scholarship, interpretation and promotion in the Catholic Church.
Rev Dr Graffy said of his five-year appointment by Pope Francis in 2014: “It is an honour to be nominated by Pope Francis as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission. I feel humbled and very much look forward to being of service to His Holiness and the Church.”
He added: “A great deal has been achieved in England and Wales in recent years by many co-workers to advance Biblical scholarship and the provision of easy-to-use resources. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis for their efforts to promote understanding and love of the Bible, particularly through the publication of the teaching documents, The Gift of Scripture and the study guide to Verbum Domini, The Word of the Lord.”
Rev Dr Graffy received his doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1983. He taught for over 20 years in St John’s Seminary in Wonersh, and is Chair of the National Scripture Working Group, which is an instrument of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. Fr Graffy is a past director of Brentwood’s Commission for Evangelisation and Formation and parish priest of Christ the Eternal High Priest in Gidea Park, Essex. Among his publications are the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Romans (Alive Publishing).
Listen to BBC Essex interview with Fr Adrian Graffy