We are swamped with words: some are poisonous like gossip; some are devastating like slander; others are unsettling like rumors or criticism. Most of them, though, are hollow, empty, meaningless. They tend to bloat us with … mental gas.
Every week we are exposed to countless words from newspapers, magazines, leaflets, notices, forms, breaking news, contracts, radio and TV shows, friends, passersby. Seeking some quiet, we take refuge in this church and say to ourselves: “No more words—I want facts!”
But, in here, we get more words. Yet we do not mind that; actually, we like it. We were greeted by words filled with God’s favor: The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all…
We joined the liturgy with words of glory, of thanks, of prayer…. all welcomed words because they were the prelude to THE Word, God’s Word.
Our supernatural attraction to it is due to a combination of comfort, enlightenment, challenge and, yet, inner peace that it has given us in the past. We are here for more so as to neutralize most of the mere human words directed at us.
For us westerners, words convey ideas. For the Hebrews words convey energy, power and an uncontrollable force. For us words inform; for the Bible they do; they create; they raise up; they heal; they transform; they rebuild. For the Bible, the power of the Word flows from the Person that speaks it. And the One who speaks it, is none other than God himself, the Almighty. Hence, the Word is a release of divine energy that brings about whatever it intends to accomplish. It must be the reason why we are drawn into our church every weekend.
It is the reason why the crowds pressed around Jesus. They could not get enough of him and of his Word. The Word of God, Jesus, is sought after with incredible eagerness because as soon as it is spoken, people are healed, storms are quelled, bread is multiplied, nets are filled with fish, dead are raised to life, sinners are sanctified.
In our passage from the Gospel of Luke (5:1-11), the Word does three awesome things: It makes people believe that God has revisited them and filled their hearts with hope and with the certainty of his constant, unfailing care. It makes people, like Simon Peter and his shipmates, trust in Jesus, even against their best human judgment. Finally, it produces the Great Reversal: from catchers of fish, to fishers of people. This is designed by God to happen to us now as well. If it were not so, we would be just recalling a nice story from the past with little or no effect on our lives.
As it is, Jesus is ready to unleash his Word to perform a miracle for us as individual: the miracle that we might have been seeking. Or the miracle that we suspect he has tried to perform for us for a very long time, and couldn’t on account of our fears and/or hesitations.
The cleaning and mending of the nets gave Simon Peter and his helpers, time to think about their failure. As they cleaned and mended their nets, that failure loomed larger and larger. No fish meant no income, making it harder to feed their families. They had to clean those darn nets even if they had remained empty all night long. They could almost hear the silent snickering of village folks loitering nearby…
We do not know how Jesus’ Word reached Simon Peter’s heart, but we know the result. Instead of going home to sleep a few hours and dream of the fish that got away, he was willing to give it another try. He was willing to put aside his knowledge of how to fish, and listen to the word of a carpenter who knew how to pound nails and saw boards, yet knew nothing about fishing…
”On your word I will cast the nets during the day, just like a fool; let people laugh and jeer; let me face another failure…On your word I will cast them again and again…
The miracle of God’s Word is not so much in the catch done in broad daylight, but in the fact that a skillful fisherman trusted One who had no experience about fishing at all.
Now the big question: are we ready to let Jesus’ Word work our miracle? Are we ready to take the leap into the risky and dark unknown of blind trust in his Word?
If we let God perform the miracle that we need for ourselves, inevitably, we would be overtaken by a sense of acute disgust about ourselves and say:
“How lukewarm, how hesitant, how ungrateful, how fearful, how filled with doubts, HOW SINFUL I am, o Lord!”
It is the feeling that rushed into Simon Peter’s heart and then on his lips: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)
On Isaiah’s lips: “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:5)
In Paul’s heart: “Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me. For I am the least of the apostles, not fir to be called an apostle.” (1 Corinthians 15:8-9)
Our cry, as you can see, is nothing new. It is the feeling shared so powerfully by anyone who has been visited by God’s Word in all its magnificent light and awesome power.
But it is precisely at that moment, precisely now that we need him the most.
It is whenever we are down, or wounded, or embarrassed, or confused, or torn, or have just assessed the extent of our spiritual poverty and sinfulness, that we must beg him to stay.
“Stay, Lord, and perform your great reversal.” He will reply: “Do not be afraid: from now on you will be catching men!
Do not be afraid: from a frightened, worry-filled, hesitant, petty, vengeful, jealous, lazy, arrogant, lustful, bitter person, you might be, you can become that person you have not dared to be, but who I had called you to be.”
There is only one correct reply: “I have failed so far; but, on your Word, I shall cast all the past behind me, and wait for your miracle, because I trust in you, o Lord.”