POPE FRANCIS ON 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C.
Saint Peter’s Square
Sunday, 6 February 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
The Gospel of today’s Liturgy takes us to the banks of the Sea of Galilee. The crowd is gathering around Jesus, while some disappointed fishermen, including Simon Peter, are washing their nets after a night of fishing that went badly. And so it is that Jesus climbs into Simon’s boat; then he invites him to go out to sea and cast his nets again (cf. Lk 5:1-4). Let us pause on these two actions of Jesus: first he climbs into the boat and then, the second, he invites him to put out into the open water. It was a night that went badly, without fish, but Peter is trustful and sets out into open water.
First of all, Jesus gets into Simon’s boat. To do what? To teach. He asks for that very boat, which is not full of fish but rather has returned to the shore empty, after a night of toil and disillusionment. It is a beautiful image for us too. Every day the boat of our life leaves the shores of our home to sail out into the sea of daily activities; every day we try to “fish from the sea”, to cultivate dreams, to pursue projects, to experience love in our relationships. But often, like Peter, we experience the “night of empty nets” – the night of empty nets – the disappointment of trying so hard and not seeing the desired results: “We toiled all night and took nothing” (v. 5), says Simon. How often we too are left with a sense of defeat, while disappointment and bitterness arise in our hearts. Two very dangerous woodworms.
What does the Lord do then? He chooses to climb into our boat. From there he wants to proclaim the Gospel. It is precisely that empty boat, the symbol of our incapacity, that becomes Jesus’ “cathedra”, the pulpit from which he proclaims the Word. And this is what the Lord loves to do – the Lord is the Lord of surprises, of miracles in surprises: to climb into the boat of our lives when we have nothing to offer him; to enter our voids and fill them with his presence; to make use of our poverty to proclaim his wealth, our miseries to proclaim his mercy. Let us remember this: God does not want a cruise ship: a poor “ramshackle” boat is enough for him, as long as we welcome him. This yes, to welcome him; the boat doesn’t matter, but that we welcome him. But, I wonder, do we let him into the boat of our lives? Do we make available to him the little we have? Sometimes we feel unworthy of Him because we are sinners. But this is an excuse that the Lord does not like, because it distances Him from us! He is the God of closeness, compassion, tenderness, and he does not seek perfectionism: he seeks our welcome. He says to you too: “Let me get into the boat of your life”, “But Lord, look..” – “Like that, let me in, just as it is”. Think about this.
In this way, the Lord reconstructs Peter’s trust. When he climbs into the boat, after preaching, he says: “Put out a little from the land” (v. 4). It was not a good time of the day for fishing, in broad daylight, but Peter trusts in Jesus. He does not base his trust on the strategies of fishermen, which he knows well, but rather he founds it on the newness of Jesus. That wonder that moved him to do what Jesus told him. It is the same for us too: if we welcome the Lord into our boat, we can put out to sea. With Jesus, we navigate the sea of life without fear, without giving in to disappointment when we catch nothing, and without giving up and saying “there is nothing more to be done”. Always, in personal life as well as in the life of the Church and society, there is something beautiful and courageous that can be done, always. We can always start again – the Lord always invites us to get back on our feet because He opens up new possibilities. So let us accept the invitation: let us chase away pessimism and mistrust, and put out to sea with Jesus! Our little empty boat, too, will witness a miraculous catch.
Let us pray to Mary: who like no other welcomed the Lord into the boat of her life. May she encourage us and intercede for us.
Saint Peter’s Square
5th Sunday in Ordinary Year C, 10 February 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In today’s Gospel passage, Luke’s narrative (cf. Lk 5:1-11) offers us the call of Saint Peter. His name — as we know — was Simon, and he was a fisherman. On the shore of the Lake of Galilee, Jesus sees him as he is arranging his nets, along with other fishermen. He finds him exhausted and discouraged, because that night they had caught nothing. And Jesus surprises him with an unexpected gesture: He gets into his boat and asks him to put out a short distance from the land because He wants to speak to the people from there — there were many people. So Jesus sits down in Simon’s boat and teaches the crowd gathered along the shore. But His words reopen even Simon’s heart to trust. Then, with another surprising ‘move’, Jesus says to him: “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (v. 4).
Simon responds with an objection: “Master, we have toiled all night and took nothing!”. And, as an expert fisherman, he could have added: ‘If we didn’t catch anything during the night, we aren’t going to catch anything during the day’. However, inspired by Jesus’ presence and enlightened by His Word, he says: “But at your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5). It is the response of faith, which we too are called to give; it is the attitude of willingness that the Lord asks of all his disciples, especially those who are tasked with responsibilities in the Church. And Peter’s trustful obedience creates a prodigious result: “when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish” (v. 6).
It is a miraculous catch, a sign of the power of Jesus’ word: when we place ourselves generously in his service, he accomplishes great things in us. This is what he does in each of us: he asks us to welcome him on the boat of our life, in order to set out anew with him and to sail a new sea, one which proves to be full of surprises. His call to go out into the open sea of the humanity of our time, in order to be witnesses to goodness and mercy, gives new meaning to our existence, which is often at risk of collapsing upon itself. At times we may be surprised and uncertain before the call that the divine Master addresses to us, and we may be tempted to reject it due to our inadequacy. Peter too, after this incredible catch, said to Jesus: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (v. 8). This humble prayer is beautiful: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’. But he says it on his knees before the One whom by this point he recognizes as ‘Lord’. And Jesus encourages him by saying: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (v. 10); because God — if we trust in Him — frees us from our sin and opens a new horizon before us: to cooperate in his mission.
The greatest miracle that Jesus accomplished for Simon and the other tired and discouraged fishermen is not so much the net full of fish, as having helped them not to fall victim to disappointment and discouragement in the face of failure. He prepared them to become proclaimers of and witnesses to his word and the Kingdom of God. And the disciples’ response was immediate and unreserved: “when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him” (v. 11). May the Blessed Virgin, model of prompt adherence to God’s will, help us to feel the allure of the Lord’s call, and make us willing to cooperate with him to spread his word of salvation everywhere.
Saint Peter’s Square
5th Sunday in Ordinary Year C, 7 February 2016
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
This Sunday’s Gospel tells us — in St Luke’s narrative — of the call of Jesus’ first disciples (5:1-11). The event takes place in the context of everyday life: there are several fishermen on the shore of the lake of Galilee, who, after working all night and catching nothing, are washing and arranging their nets. Jesus gets into one of the boats, that of Simon, called Peter, whom he asks to put out a little from the shore, and he starts to preach the Word of God to the crowd of people who had gathered. When he is finished speaking, he tells them to put out into the deep and cast the nets. Simon had previously met Jesus and felt the prodigious power of his word. Therefore, he responds: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets” (v. 5). And this faith of his did not disappoint: indeed, the nets filled with so many fish that they nearly broke (cf. v. 6). Facing this extraordinary event, the fishermen are greatly astonished. Simon Peter throws himself at Jesus’ feet, saying: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (v. 8). That prodigious sign convinces him that Jesus is not only a formidable master whose word is true and powerful, but he is the Lord, he is the manifestation of God. For Peter this close presence brings about a strong sense of his own pettiness and unworthiness. From a human point of view, he thinks that there should be distance between the sinner and the Holy One. In truth, his very condition as a sinner requires that the Lord not distance Himself from him, in the same way that a doctor cannot distance himself from those who are sick.
Jesus’ response to Simon Peter is reassuring and decisive: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (v. 10). Once again the fisherman of Galilee, placing his trust in this word, leaves everything and follows the one who has become his Lord and Master. Simon’s workmates, James and John, do the same. This is the logic that guides Jesus’ mission and the mission of the Church: go in search, “fish” for men and women, not to proselytize, but to restore full dignity and freedom to all, through the forgiveness of sins. This is the essential point of Christianity: to spread the free and regenerative love of God, with a welcoming and merciful attitude toward everyone, so that each person can encounter God’s tenderness and have the fullness of life. Here, in a particular way, I think of confessors: they are the first who must give the Father’s mercy, following Jesus’ example, as did the two holy Brothers, Fr Leopold and Padre Pio.
Today’s Gospel challenges us: do we know how to truly trust in the Word of the Lord? Or do we let ourselves become discouraged by our failures? In this Holy Year of Mercy we are called to comfort those who feel they are sinners, unworthy before the Lord, defeated by their mistakes, by speaking to them the very words of Jesus: “Do not be afraid. The Father’s mercy is greater than your sins! It is greater, do not be afraid!”. May the Virgin Mary help us to ever better understand that being disciples means placing our feet in the footsteps left by the Master: they are the footprints of divine grace that restore life for all.
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