5th Sunday in O.T. - Staying in Peter's Boat

One of the Old Testament images that the Fathers often use to help us understand the Church is Noah’s ark. We all know the story. The world had become so corrupt that God decided it would be best to start fresh. Man’s sins produced chaos and that chaos overwhelmed him. This is the flood. God, however, preserves Noah, his family, and the animals from the flood by having him build an ark. The flood comes and Noah is saved because he trusts God’s plan and follows His commands.

In Luke’s telling of the calling of St. Peter, we see Jesus boldly step into Peter’s boat and tell him to go out into the deep water. One doesn’t need to be a scripture scholar to recognize the tension present in that boat. Peter is a professional fisherman, and Jesus, a carpenter, has just hopped into his boat and given him an order. It’s like walking into someone’s office and telling them how to do their job. How do you think you would feel?

Peter obeys the command, but he can’t help making a comment that he thinks he knows better, “Lord, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” The result is a miraculous catch of fish, and Peter, falling to his knees, declares, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Jesus responds, not by kicking Peter out of the boat, but by calling him to a higher mission, “Be not afraid. From now on, you will be catching men.”

The boat of St. Peter, like Noah’s ark, is the Church. The boat is holy because Christ is in it and He has chosen to remain there; however, that doesn’t mean there are no challenges. Peter is a sinner, the other apostles are sinners, the boat is shaken by storms, and some days the fish are hard to find. Jesus knows all these things, but He gets in the boat anyway. Today it’s tempting to look around at the Church, Peter’s boat, and only see sinners, waves, and a lack of fish, but that temptation is from the devil. This is still the boat in which Christ sits and ministers to His people.

It doesn’t do us any good to complain about the sins of others, the waves, or the empty pews. We too are sinners and we have all contribute to the messiness of the Church. You’ll say, ‘But father, there are a lot of bishops and priests who have committed really bad sins. Doesn’t something need to be done about them?’ Yes, that’s true, but what are we going to do about it? We are going to put our own part of the boat in order. We will stay focused on Christ and what He is asking us to do within this part of the boat. We will be at Mass every Sunday. We will pray for our priests and bishops. We will pray the Rosary. We will follow the ten commandments. We will confess our sins. We will study the Bible. And we will help those around us who are in need.

These are the ways that we stay focused on Christ, clean up the boat, endure the waves, and catch more fish.

Scott Murray