Homile — Fisher of Men
Once again I was asked to give the Homily (aka sermon) at church today. I thought I would post it for those of you who are religiously inclined.
The Scripture reading was Luke 5:1 - 11. The homily follows.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There is so much truth and beauty contained in these few sentences, that to try and talk about all of them today would be impossible. So instead I am going to pull out three threads from this reading, and really focus in on them.
First I want to talk about who our Lord called to follow him, fisherman.
St. Gregory the Theologian famously wrote:
“The fisherman are Teachers of the Church, who catch us in the net of Faith, and as it were, bring us to shore, to the land of the living.”
Peter, James and John were fishermen. Not theologians, not men of learning and refinement. They were simple, honest hard working people. The phrase “salt of the earth” comes to mind when I think about them.
In short, the last people you or I would choose if we were asked who would be the foundations of our church. But they had what God always looks for. Obedience and Humility.
Once they encountered God, face to face, they were obedient to His call, and humble in His presence.
These were the types of people that Christ called to himself throughout His ministry and they are still the types of people that God calls to himself today, both to the ministry of the Royal Priesthood, like our Priest and Deacon, and those like you and I who are called to the lay ministries.
You might be wondering why this is important to us today. Each of us is called to follow in the footsteps of these fisherman. To cast our nets out into the dark oceans of the world and catch souls in them, bringing them into the light, into the saving knowledge of God.
And just like these men, we might not be great theologians, or great preachers. We might just be simple men and women, who long for salvation and want to share it with everyone around us.
Thankfully it is not by our power alone that we are asked to seek and save the lost, but with the assistance and power of God, as todays gospel so wonderfully illustrates.
When Christ called to the men on the water and told them to lower their nets, Peter, an experienced fisherman knew that it was foolish, he just knew it.
How many times in our lives have we been like Peter? How many times has God called to us, asked us to step out in faith and do something, to only have us say “No Lord, that won’t work, I can’t possibly do that.”
I know from my own life, this happens all to often. To often we allow the “wisdom of the world” to lead us away from God. But there is no wisdom in the world, apart from Christ who is the Light and Word of God.
All of Peter’s experience and skill told him that after a night of failed fishing, there was no hope to catch fish now. Had he not been in the presence of God, that would have been true. But that part of Peter that longed for God, longed for healing and salvation responded to the Lord’s command, and they lowered the nets.
We all have this longing, a longing for our creator, and it is this longing that brings us to His Holy Church.
Here we learn the second lesson this reading has to offer.
When we put our faith and trust in God, the impossible becomes possible. Without God there was no hope to catch even one fish, but with God, and a simple mans faith, the nets were so full they broke, and the boats themselves began to sink from the weight of so many fish.
The faith of the fishermen was rewarded with a miraculous catch. So to is our faith rewarded when we cast our nets out into the world. With God a lame man can walk, a blind man can see and a simple fisherman can become one of the greatest of the apostles.
And just like those fisherman so long ago, we can fill our nets to the breaking point today. By simple acts of compassion, generosity and love for our neighbors we can transform the world from a cold, dark, lonely place into one filled with love, light and compassion.
Our God is a God of miracles. The Old Testament is full of them, from the creation accounts in Genesis to the parting of the Red Sea. The New Testament is founded on a miracle, the day that God took on flesh and became man, and contains the greatest miracle, the greatest moment in human history.
The Resurrection of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.
And my friends, miracles did not end with the Ascension of our Lord, they continue today. From miraculous healings, to icons that weep tears of oil that heal any they touch. They happen here in this very church every time we gather together for the Lord’s Supper, for the Eucharist.
An amazing miracle is only minutes away from us, right now.
Lastly we learn of our Lord’s great compassion and love for us, for mankind. In our hymns, prayers and services we refer to Christ as “The only Lover of Mankind”, and we are so grateful that he is.
When Peter saw the great multitude of fish he fell on his face, at Jesus’ feet and despaired at his own sinfulness. During Great and Holy Lent we imitate Peter and fall down on our faces, in an act of contrition and humility before our Lord.
When confronted with the holiness and divinity of our Lord, Peter’s own sinful nature became even more apparent. Peter pleaded with Christ to “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
But here Peter was wrong. Our Lord came to the world to save sinners. It is the sick and dying who need a doctor, not the healthy. As the Lord himself would say later in the Gospel of Luke:
“For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” — Luke 19: 1 10
Peter cried out from the pain of his own sin, but Christ being compassionate and merciful tells him “do not be afraid.” Our Lord knew Peter’s heart, his desires, his sins, his whole life.
He knew that Peter had begun a new journey, one that would lead away from sin, and towards salvation.
Peter was lost, but now he had been sought by the Lord and saved. And in turn he would go out into the world to seek and save others, as would the rest of the apostles.
It is a pattern that although began two thousand years ago, continues today. Those that are asked to take on the responsibility of leadership in the church are just like the Fishermen in todays Gospel.
They are sinners who were roaming the wilderness of the world, lost sheep that the Good Shepherd searched out and found. Once they were found the Lord said to each of them, every reader, sub-deacon, deacon, priest and bishop, “Come follow me.”
St. Bede, a 7th century Saint wrote:
“The Lord soothes the fears of the unspiritual man so that no man need be fearful in his conscience because of his own past guilt; or, confounded at the sight of the innocence of others, be discouraged in setting out himself on the road to sanctity.”
What St. Bede is saying here is that we should not be afraid to turn to our Lord in times of need, sorrow or helplessness. He will not hold our past sins against us; once confessed they no longer matter to him.
They cease to exist.
He will tell us, as he told Sts. Peter, James and John, “Do not be afraid. Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” That is our calling brothers and sisters, to be fishers of men.
To call all men to Christ, and by so doing, free them from the bondage of sin. This is the calling of all Christians, not just the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, but for each and everyone of us.
May we find the strength to set aside all those things that come between us and our healing, our salvation, so that we can follow our Lord and truly be the fishers of men he has called us to be.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.