In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Today we started to read the Gospel of St Luke, which is read in church after the Gospel of St Mathew. The reading was about the calling of the first Apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Three evangelists speak of this event, but only St Luke describes it in detail:
One day Jesus was standing on the shore of the Lake of Gennesaret while people pushed their way up to Him to listen to the word of God. Jesus got into one of the boats –the one belonging to Simon -and asked him to push off a little from the shore. Jesus sat in the boat and taught the crowd. When He finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Push the boat out further into the deep water, and let down your nets for a catch.” “Master,” – Simon answered, – “we worked hard all night long and caught nothing. But if you say so, I will let down the nets.” They let them down and caught such a large number of fish that the nets were about to break. When Simon Peter saw what had happened, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord! I am a sinful man!” They were all amazed at the large number of fish they had caught, but Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” They pulled the boats up on the beach, left everything, and followed Jesus.
The miraculous catch of fish prefigured the extraordinary success of the apostolic ministry. Peter and his companions toiled all night with no result, but when they cast their net into the sea at the order of the Lord, they caught a great number of fish. It showed them that contrary to all human logic they, a handful of people, poor and unlearned, would be able to attract the whole world to Christ.
An experienced fisherman knows the habits of every kind of fish and uses different methods of fishing accordingly, so did the Apostles adjust to the different needs of everyone.
St Paul says: “I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may gain more. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, so that I might gain Jews… to those who are without law, I became as without law, so that I might gain those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” (1Cor. 9)
The Apostles stretched their nets of preaching the Gospel to the whole world and caught an innumerable multitude of people. God’s grace worked through the words of the Apostles and drew all to them. As the Lord Jesus Christ says: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6) and in the other place, He says: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12).
From the time of the Apostles to our days these nets are stretched out in the Church, and they don’t cease to catch. God’s grace doesn’t cease to draw souls.
It is a mystery how the grace of the Holy Spirit works in every Christian soul. God’s grace shows to the inner vision of man, that there exists a different life, incomparably better than the life of the flesh, which now appears for him as something shameful and empty. His heart tells him that this new life is possible for him, that God calls upon him and accepts his repentance.
We should admit that in our time the catch of the Church is scarce. We live in the time of apostasy, which was predicted in the Gospel. The narrow path of a Christian life requires constant effort, struggle with one’s passions, labour on one’s inner world. Not many choose this narrow path. On the other hand there are so many standing on the wide path of sinful life, leading to destruction.
“You are the light of the world” – the Lord said to the apostles. The Church till the end of times remains “the light of the world”. Those who turn away from this light, stay in darkness and don’t know where they are going because the darkness blinded their eyes.(1John, 2)
Bishop Andrei (Erastov)
- The Calling of the Apostles, Venice
- Jesus Calling the Apostles, Monreale Cathedral, Palermo, Italy
- The Calling of the First Apostles Peter, Andrew, James, and John