In this Gospel of the second week of Paope, the church reminds us of our Lord calling His first apostles to their work that will change the world. He sought out neither the perfect nor the educated. He avoided the professionals as well as the religious. He sought out the simple, humble, working people…and charged them to transform and transfigure the world. He looked for three basic characteristics: (1) recognition of one’s imperfections; (2) willingness to work; and, (3) obedience to His commandments.
Firstly, in his commentary on this Gospel passage, St. Cyril of Alexandria wrote: “He told Simon and his companions to sail off a little from the land and to let down the net for a draught. But they replied that they had been toiling the whole night and had caught nothing. However, in the name of Christ, they let down the net, and immediately it was full of fish. By a visible sign and by a miraculous type and representation, they were fully convinced that their labor would be rewarded, and the zeal displayed in spreading out the net of the gospel teaching would be fruitful. Within this net they should most certainly catch the shoals of the heathen. But note that neither Simon nor his companions could draw the net to land. Speechless from fright and astonishment—for their wonder had made them mute—they beckoned to their partners, to those who shared their labors in fishing, to come and help them in securing their prey. For many have taken part with the holy apostles in their labors, and still do so, especially those who inquire into the meaning of what is written in the holy Gospels. Yet besides them there are also others: the pastors and teachers and rulers of the people, who are skilled in the doctrines of truth. For the net is still being drawn, while Christ fills it, and calls to conversion those who, according to the Scripture phrase, are in the depths of the sea, that is to say, those who live in the surge and waves of worldly things."
My beloved in Christ, the greatest tragedy of the contemporary Church is that we have left God’s work. Where are you today? What do you do? Are you a tent maker, a fisherman, a mother, a doctor, a soldier? Do you sell real estate? Are you an accountant? Are you retired? Are you a teacher? What do you do? Whatever you do, wherever you do it, however you do it, God is calling you to His apostolic work. In the Creed we recite each Liturgy, we confess our belief in one, holy catholic and apostolic Church. This means that we are not merely a Church of the apostles…but that we are a Church of apostles. Look again at the icons that adorn our Sanctuary. Can you confess your imperfections before Him and then reach those who are imperfect for Him? Can you acknowledge and commit to the work that is necessary to bring souls to salvation? And most importantly, can you be obedient to the call of God to become an apostle? It is not enough of us Orthodox to be proud of our Apostolic roots. We need to become a Church of contemporary Apostles.
Secondly, obedience to God’s Will is man’s first and foremost duty. Second most important is to carry out His Divine Commandments. The godly man strives to conform himself to whatever God wishes. Man through obedience to God identifies himself with God, and his will with God’s Divine Will. In our times, man has learned not to trust God or anyone else, but only himself. If we have not surrendered ourselves completely to God’s Divine Providence, we lack true faith. This is one of the main reasons why many Christians do not come every Sunday to Church.
Lack of faith is the spiritual illness of today’s society. Lack of faith results in us not praying every day. Or even if we do so then our hearts are not turned to God, but wonder here and there. Lack of faith is the reason why we do not obey God’s Commandments and we do not trust ourselves in His Will. Lack of faith is the reason why man does not believe in God and His Teachings. Lack of faith is the reason why man turns to evil deeds and is disobedient to God’s Word. If we wish to have God’s blessings in our homes, our works and our lives, then we have to turn to Him, bow before Him and trust ourselves to His Divine Providence. Let us imitate St. Peter’s example. Let us show trust and faith in Christ, our Lord and Savior. Let us practice God’s Commandments. Let us be obedient to His Divine Will. This way of life will bring upon us God’s blessings. This is the way for our salvation, to be before God and surrender ourselves to Him.
Finally, his boat is the Church that Gives life. Ordinarily people are not given life on a boat but transported. Nor are they comforted on a vessel but anxious about its journey. Notice also that this boat is not a boat that is given to Peter to be piloted—rather, it is the church, which is committed to the apostle to be governed. For this is the vessel that does not kill but gives life to those borne along by the storms of this world as if by waves. Just as a little boat holds the dying fish that have been brought up from the deep, so also the vessel of the church gives life to human beings who have been freed from turmoil. Within itself, I say, the church gives life to those who are half-dead, as it were.