In one leadership development program many years ago, with a harness, I was forced to jump from a platform about twenty feet above ground. It was really so difficult at first, but on seeing others succeed and without getting hurt, I knew that I had to do it. Just like the others before me, I was successful as well.
After hearing Jesus preached while using the boat, his words may be so powerful such that Simon Peter followed his instructions to go into deep water. Prior to that, the fishermen were fishing all night long but caught nothing. Then, after following Jesus instructions, they got such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, and filled the two boats to almost sinking point.
There are many ways we can deduce as to what really happened in this Gospel story. Maybe the fishermen were fishing in the wrong place, or Jesus may have made all the fish in the lake swim in one place so Peter and companions can catch them. Or Jesus’ words may have encouraged Peter to go to a part of the lake where he normally may not have fished, because Jesus knew there were fish there.
The instruction from Jesus led Peter into going beyond what he set as limits to his fishing experience. While he knows his occupation, it was really something that went beyond his competence of fishing, he had no recourse but to follow what Jesus asked him to do.
In our own personal experiences, we are challenged by the Lord to go beyond our comfort zones, our own limits, which are imposed by fear, ignorance, disability, or simply an inadequacy of faith. This is the same Jesus that asked Peter to go into deep water; likewise we are being challenged to get out into the deep, because being with the Lord means change and personal growth. He knows we can step up to meet the demands of the situation.
Today’s readings all tell us about responding positively to God’s call to serve. In the First Reading, the prophet Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord and responded to the call,
“Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” “Here I am,” I said; “send me!” (Is. 6: 8)
St. Paul proclaimed in the Second Reading,
“For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective. Indeed, I have toiled harder than all of them; not I, however, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it be I or they, so we preach and so you believed.” (1 Cor. 15: 9-11)
These instances in the Scriptures assure us that the promise of Jesus is real. Just like when I first took the plunge twenty feet down, so it is with us in the challenges posed for us as the Lord’s disciples. Being afraid of change puts us into a restricted capacity and living in a comfortable situation creates limits for ourselves. We should realize that change is at the core of Jesus followers, and opening ourselves to the leading of the Spirit is such a liberating experience. Today is the day to ask Jesus where the deep water is, the place that’s unknown to us, the place where the harvests are, the place where the Spirit of God hovers above.