The Way of Conversion

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

The encounter between Simon Peter and Jesus in this Sunday’s gospel provides us with a microcosm of the conversion experience that we each must go through in some form or another to become true disciples of Christ. Let’s take a look.


We begin with a recognition of our need. Simon and his brothers have been out fishing all night and have caught nothing. They have worked hard, done the best they could, and still it wasn’t enough. They had a real need and it is in their need that Jesus comes to them. Being in need is unpleasant and humbling. To recognize our need is to recognize that there is something essential we require that we cannot supply ourselves. We must therefore look outside of ourselves. The New-Age mantra is to find God within yourself, but Jesus never says this. Jesus doesn’t say “save yourself, be your own God.” Instead he says, “I am the way,” and, “Come to me and find rest.”


It is precisely in this place of need that Simon Peter encounters Jesus. Jesus teaches the crowd, but then speaks directly to Simon. “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch” (Lk 5:4). Jesus doesn’t command or coerce Simon. He simply tells him what to do and leaves it to Simon to obey him or ignore him. Simon’s encounter with Christ leaves him with a choice to make.


When Jesus tells Simon to put out into the water and cast his nets one more time, Simon must have had an internal struggle. He tells Jesus, “We have worked hard all night and caught nothing.” Why should they cast their nets one more time? Why should this time be any different. But Simon decided at this moment to trust Jesus. “At your command I will lower the nets” (Lk 5:5).


The result of Simon’s trusting Jesus was a miracle. Not only did he catch fish, but so many fish filled his nets that the boat was in danger of sinking. Simon Peter’s response to having been so blessed by God is awe. He realizes that he is in the presence of the Holy One and that he is not worthy of the blessing he has received. That’s why he says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Lk 5:8). He knows he doesn’t deserve God’s favor and that’s precisely why he’s thankful for it. We don’t say “thank you” when we receive something we have earned, like a pay check. We say “thank you” when we receive something we didn’t earn, like a gift.


Having encountered Christ and experiencing his blessing leaves Simon Peter a changed man. He realizes that things cannot now go back to the way they were before. Jesus gives Simon a mission: “From now on you will be catching men” (Lk 5:10). Simon’s response is to leave everything behind and follow Jesus (Lk 5:11). He is no longer Simon the fisherman, but St. Peter the Apostle — the same man, but with a new purpose, totally transformed by Christ’s action in his life.

Each and every one of us must go through something like this in the process of becoming a disciple of Christ. We don’t up and follow Jesus for no reason. We follow Jesus because He has met us in our need, blessed us in our need, and we have responded to His blessing with trust, awe and gratitude.

We may not have empty fishing nets, but some part of our life is empty and can only be filled with the love of God. Jesus may not climb into our fishing boats, but he meets us all the same, wherever we are in life.

I invite us all to spend time reflecting this week on our own encounters with the Lord. What is your particular need? How has Christ met you there? Have you decided to trust Him? What was your response? What impact has that had on your life? Can things ever be the same?