It's okay to have nothing and be unworthy - Jesus does the rest

Homily for Thursday of Week 22

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Nothing. That is what Peter and the others caught after fishing all night. Nothing. (Luke 5:1-11) After a long night with no sleep they are now washing their nets by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus needed a suitable place to preach to the crowds and commandeered Peter’s boat. Peter was undoubtedly tired and disappointed after a fruitless night’s work but he had a generous heart and provided Jesus with the pulpit he needed. Jesus’ command to fish again after catching nothing all night did not make much sense, and in any case the fish would have a better chance of seeing the boats and nets in the daylight. A second time we see Peter’s generosity; he goes fishing at Jesus’ request. What a reward he got. Not just one boat full of fish, but two boats full of fish, and so many fish that the nets began to tear and the boats were at the point of sinking. Jesus’ generosity has more than matched the generosity of Peter.

We can imagine that if Peter had a very successful night fishing he would not have wanted to go fishing again. Surely the fact that he caught nothing prepared him to go out again to fish. Having nothing prepared his heart to listen to what Jesus would say and carry it out. It is very often the case since then; having nothing prepares our heart to receive Jesus, and there are many types of such emptiness preparing our heart for Jesus. If our hearts are full of other things we do not have room for Jesus. When we have nothing, we have room for Jesus.

God speaks to us in our own language sometimes, for example, by means of a miraculous catch of fish. When Jesus was born, those studying the stars saw a special star in the sky. In Acts 10, Peter was hungry and God gave him a vision of all kinds of creatures commanding him to eat, to show that no person is unclean in God’s eyes. In today’s Gospel, God speaks again in our language; Jesus gave Peter the fisherman a huge catch of fish to symbolize his future ministry.

Now we see another kind of emptiness in Peter as he says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” (Luke 5:8) He recognizes his unworthiness before Christ but once again Jesus fills that emptiness, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” (Luke 5:10) Peter received a miraculous catch of fish because he had nothing but a generous willing heart. Now he receives his vocation from Jesus when he acknowledges his unworthiness. So it is okay to have nothing and be unworthy. Jesus provides more than we would have hoped and calls us despite our unworthiness. All that is necessary is the generous willingness of Peter and Jesus does the rest.

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.