What would Simon have done next if Jesus had departed?

Thursday, 9/6/12

There are two particularly charming aspects of today’s Gospel. The first has to do with scene itself. We are losing out if we do not make the mental effort to see that lake and what went on there.

We must try to feel how down-in-the-mouth the four young men were over near killing themselves all night without catching a thing. People who are familiar with fishing on that lake tell us that those neighboring young men would have teamed up in dragging a long seining net. As they picked through its length, finding nothing, not a thing; you can imagine what kind of fishermen language they used to express their disappointment. 

Then, turn to imaginng what kind of fishermen’s language welled up in their gullets when Jesus told them to cast their small net over the right side.

Still, there was an authority about the stranger. So, okay, Simon cast over the net, and he found himself defeated. He couldn’t pull the net up because it was swarming with hundreds of fish. James and John came to help, and it ended with both boats loaded to near sinking

If you don’t mind this, the other charming aspect of this story is one personal to me. From eight years before I was born our home parish had an Irish pastor from Cobh in County Cork. He never spent money on himself, and his severe seminary training kept him from doing anything but reading for his recreation. He was trained not to socialize with his beloved parishioners.

When three of us kids began studying for the priesthood Father let us into his private life. One night after we had served a holy hour he handed oranges around to us, and he sat us down for a chat. The Gospel that day had been the same as today’s, and Father explained it to us.

You see, Simon and the others were bug eyed over all those fish. All they could think of was the money they would get for them. The only problem was that Jesus wouldn’t go away.

Simon was the cleverest of the four. He spoke to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” He wanted to be an even more sinful man, but Jesus wouldn’t let him.

Maybe our old pastor was wrong about that, but he did us a service. After that, the three of us could see that the people in the Bible were as human as we were.

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