The story of the «miraculous catch» in the Sea of Galilee was very popular among early Christians. Various Gospel writers pass on the episode, but only Luke ends the story with a moving scene that has Simon Peter as the protagonist: a believing disciple and a sinner at the same time.
Peter is a man of faith, seduced by Jesus. Jesus’ words have more power for him than his own experience. Peter knows that no one goes out fishing at noon on the lake, especially if he hasn’t caught anything the night before. But Jesus tells him to do it and Peter completely trusts in him: «If you say so, I will pay out the nets».
At the same time, Peter is a man with a sincere heart. Surprised by the great catch they got, «he fell at the knees of Jesus» and with an admirable spontaneity says: «Leave me, I am a sinful man». In front of everyone, Peter recognizes his sin and his complete unworthiness to be around Jesus.
Jesus isn’t afraid to have a sinful disciple near him. On the contrary, if Peter feels himself to be a sinner, he can better understand Jesus’ message of forgiveness for everyone and his welcoming of sinners and the undesirables. «Do not be afraid; from now on it is people you will be catching». Jesus takes away Peter’s fear of being a sinful disciple and joins him to his mission of reuniting and gathering men and women of every condition to enter into God’s saving project.
Why does the Church so resist recognizing her sins and confessing her need of conversion? The Church is Jesus Christ’s, but she isn’t Jesus Christ. No one can miss seeing sin in her. The Church is «holy» because she lives animated by the Holy Spirit of Jesus, but she is «sinful» because not seldom does she resist that Spirit and wanders away from the Gospel. Sin is in believers and in institutions; in the hierarchy and in God’s people; in pastors and in Christian communities. We all need conversion.
It’s very serious to accustom ourselves to hiding the truth, since this keeps us from committing ourselves to a process of conversion and renovation. On the other hand, isn’t it more evangelical to be a fragile and vulnerable Church, one that has the courage to recognize her sin, than to be an institution uselessly bent on covering up her wretchedness from the world. Aren’t our communities more believable when they collaborate with Christ in the evangelizing task, humbly recognizing their sins and committing themselves to a life that is each day more evangelical? Don’t we have a lot to learn even today from the great apostle Peter, recognizing his sinfulness at Jesus’ feet?
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf