They’d been out all night and caught nothing. In fact, when Jesus tells him to ‘put out your boat into deep water and lower your nets for a catch,’ St. Peter replies that they’ have worked hard all night and caught nothing.’
Why does he then go back out? Why the immediacy of Peter’s added, “But at your command, I will lower the nets.”
Most of us can recall how we feel after we’ve worked all night. Whether it was the work of taking care of a sick child, working the night shift due to the requirements of our job, we can easily bring to mind how we feel when the night is finally over and we compare ourselves with those we meet who are energetically greeting the dawn of a new day. The fatigue we feel is bone deep, the strain of staying awake through the long dark hours leaves our eyes grainy and our mind cloudy, our reactions slow; we cannot wait to close our eyes and escape into blessed sleep.
We can imagine, even if we’ve never done it, the physical labor of lifting huge heavy nets, dropping them, then lifting and dropping them, hour after hour throughout the night; we can imagine the ache in our backs, our arms, shoulders and our legs. We can sympathize with Peter: Each of has experienced the crushing emotions surrounding failure, the bald fact that despite our best efforts, our hardest work, we cannot control the results of our work. Could he even have imagined St. Peter’s catch?
Does he recognize the Word that spoke to Moses? Does Peter recognize in this man who looks like everyone else the echo of The Voice that was heard before amid terrifying sounds and lightening? Can we?
It is all too tempting to ascribe Peter’s mysterious answer to what we know now about Peter, he is after all a saint. It was Peter to whom God the father gave the knowledge of Christ as the Messiah. But there’s a part of us that knows we’re dodging the meaning of what Luke is telling us here…or more accurately, perhaps it is that part of us that hopes we can overcome our fatigue, our exhaustion…so that when we hear His voice telling us to take the risk, open our mouth, put out into the deep, we’ll hear with Peter:
Be not afraid, from now on you will be catching men.