Would you say that you are a ‘trusting’ sort of person? Are you somebody who readily accepts the words of somebody else to be true, or do you find yourself often doubting what others are saying to you?
Would you say that you were a ‘faithful’ person, able to put yourself in the hands of others; letting them take the reins, so to speak, and letting go?
Our readings both contain a challenge to all of us to have faith…
Paul to the Corinthians: Do you believe me?
If you were asked if you were a Christian, what would you say? If that answer is, ‘yes’, on what basis would you say that you were a Christian?
There is an assumption by some that a person is born Christian; that if they are from a particular background and culture then in terms of their faith, they are Christian. Many would define a Christian in terms of culture and ethnicity. But when you read Paul’s letter, he gives a very different definition of what a Christian is:
“I want to remind you, my friends, of the Good News which I preached to you, which you received, and on which your faith stands firm. That is the gospel, the message that I preached to you. You are saved by the gospel if you hold firmly to it” 1.Corinthians 15:1-2
“I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures;” 1.Corinthians 15:3-4
“So then, whether it came from me or from them, this is what we all preach, and this is what you believe.” 1.Corinthians 15:11
For Paul, being a Christian has nothing to do with where a person is born or what nationality she or he is. No, Being a Christian is defined by relationship and belief. Corinth, like most cities in the Roman Empire, was a melting pot of culture and race. Its population was made up of people from all over the known world. To be a Christian wasn’t about culture but about faith. It was and is about following Jesus: believing that he died, rose again and is alive today. Elsewhere in Paul’s letters you read this:
“if you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
Declare with your mouth… Believe in your heart…
To be a Christian comes from an act of will; a wanting to know Jesus, really know him, and to proclaim that in everything we do, and say, and think.
And there is one more important thing Paul says:
“But by God’s grace I am what I am…” 1.Corinthians 15:10
Paul says that actually, this is God’s work, not ours. Paul was a disciple of Jesus not because he had worked it out but because God, through Jesus, had revealed Himself to him. We should spend more time thanking God for all that he has done and continues to do for us. For without Him there would be no Christian faith, no Church.
Jesus: cast out your net…
You know the saying: Actions speak louder than words. Here in the Gospel reading Peter is confronted with putting his faith into action. He’s a fisherman, he knows his trade and he knows that there are no fish to be caught today. But Jesus tells him to go deeper and cast his net.
What should he do?
What would you do?
His head says, ‘no’, but his heart says, ‘yes’. He responds to Jesus. Why? Because he has faith in Jesus. Even though his common sense is telling him how futile this will be, there something about Jesus that makes him respond by saying, ‘yes’. You see, it’s not how much faith you have that matters, it’s who that faith is in that makes the difference. Peter trusted Jesus enough to do what his better judgement was telling him not to, and look at the results:
“They came and filled both boats so full of fish that the boats were about to sink.” Luke 5:7
All throughout the Gospels Jesus calls us to act in faith: We’re told to love our neighbours, turn the other cheek, bless those who would want to harm us, forgive those who sin against us, not to worry about clothes or food or money, to pray and give thanks in all circumstances, to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoners and so on and so on.
And so many of these things seem to go against what most people would see as the right things to do and which in many cases we would want to do the opposite. You know, I can read some things in the bible and feel a bit like Simon Peter being asked to do something that he knows is futile. How do I react? Do I let my head rule my heart and say:
Master we have worked hard all night long and caught nothing.
Or do I let my heart rule my head – do I trust this Jesus enough to say:
But if you say so, I will let down the nets.
The truth is ‘actions do speak louder than words’. And it’s also true that a lack of action speaks louder than words. Yes, you hear a lot of words spoken in the gospels, but they are always accompanied by actions. If Simon Peter hadn’t acted in faith nothing would have been achieved. We can listen to these words, we can speak them ourselves but unless they accompanied with action, nothing will be achieved here.
Peter acted out of faith. Time and again he would be faced with amazing, challenging, unbelievable situations. Time and again he would see amazing things achieved.
In this instance Peter ended up with a miraculous catch a fish, and Jesus ended up with a catch of men! If we would call ourselves Christian then we too are asked to follow Jesus.
It’s not a promise of an easy life, but like Peter and his friends, there is always the promise of a great reward. The catch of fish was a gift of extreme generosity, far above anything that Peter could ever have imagined. When we trust Jesus we find that he never lets us down. His actions always speak louder than words. And that’s why when Peter sees all that has happened, he falls on his knees and says: Go away from me Lord! I am a sinful man!
There are times when I know exactly how he feels…