Response to Jesus

5th Sunday Ordinary Time Homily by Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD (Australia)

When I entered the seminary, I was already 23 years old. In the Philippines, that is considered old already. Many seminarians enter the seminary after they finish high school (secondary school), so they’d be around 16 years old. And a few rare ones would enter the seminary after they finish elementary (primary school), so they’d be around 12 years old. So in my case, I could say that before entering the seminary I have given a lot of thought into it. Considering that I already finished my university studies, I already had work and I have a stable environment where I am living. So for me, I must be very, very convinced in myself and have discerned quite a lot for me to be sure that God is calling me to be a priest. Then comes the question, am I willing to sacrifice everything that I had to follow what I believe is to be a calling from God to the priesthood? 

In the gospel for today Peter must have been thinking about these things before he decided to accept Jesus’ offer to become “fisher of people”. For Peter, he has a lot of things already working for him. He has a couple of boats, which runs his business. In those times, being a fisherman could be a lucrative business. The fact that he has a couple of boats and some hired men so he could be pretty well off than the average Jew. He also has a wife and we can presume a few kids. However, I think his kids would be old enough to take care of themselves; otherwise it would be foolish for Peter to follow Jesus and leave a lot of responsibility for his wife to carry. So maybe, despite of what the gospels tell us, Peter would have had a lot of thought when he decided to follow Christ and so with the other disciples. 

Jesus on his part, he did a lot of things first so that Peter and the other disciples would “fall in love” with him enough to follow him. First, his reputation for being a miracle worker and an excellent preacher preceded him. Second, Jesus asked his permission if he could use his boat so that he could preach without being pressed by the crowd. For Peter and the other disciples, they would have been “star-struck” by this request. Then lastly, Jesus produced a “miracle” that they caught so much fish that Peter who has been a veteran fisherman who may have seen it all was dumbstruck and has realised that there is something special with him that he got attracted so much that he “fell in love” with Jesus and so with the other disciples like his brother Andrew and James and John. 

Most of us if not all have experienced love and once one has fallen in love, one is willing to sacrifice everything to be the person they fell in love with. In this case, Jesus’ attraction was too much for them that they just can’t say no to his invitation. Peter though hesitated and said, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus disregarded his statement and assured him not to be afraid for they will be catching people. And with this they followed him. 

For all of us, the same invitation is given. Many of us have interpreted this bible passage as a passage, which are applicable only to priests, religious brothers and sisters and lay leaders. But definitely this is not the case. His calling is for everyone according to our own capacity. 

The fundamental question of today’s gospel is this. Have we fallen in love with Jesus? Jesus is like a persistent suitor trying to capture our heart. How have we responded to his love? Most of us, are like Peter resisting Jesus’ love because we are sinners, we are not holy enough to deserve his love. But Jesus is always there to say to us, “be not afraid, for I’ll make you fishers of people.” What Jesus is asking us is if we are generous enough to give three T’s in our life to him, our Time, our Talent and our Treasure. And definitely Jesus would give us our reward in due time. The question is, are we willing to end our resistance and just fall in love with Jesus? I hope we are. 

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