Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lk 5:1-11
February 6, 2022

Russia has amassed a sizable army at its border with Ukraine. In spite of intense diplomatic efforts, the real threat of war in Europe continues. (Let us pray!)

At the same time, however, another story involving Russia flashed across the media with a very short shelf life. In a further instance of aggressive behavior, Russia announced naval maneuvers would begin on February 3 in international waters immediately off the coast of Ireland. Tiny Ireland was quick to lodge objections.

Irish diplomacy did not involve requests for military support from allies. There was no threat of economic sanctions. It does not appear that The UN Security Council put the matter on its agenda. The Irish simply announced that they would send out, en masse, the Irish commercial fishing fleet to peacefully disrupt the war games.

“Listen lads, out you go, fish away, no worries!”
Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producer’s Organization told its members. The leprechaun stared down the Russian bear and the bear blinked. The naval exercises were canceled.

What is it about an unarmed, commercial fishing fleet that caused the Russians to back down? Certainly, the fishermen are intimately familiar with the sea, the weather, and their boats. They quite likely feel more comfortable and in control on the high seas than on dry land. Their peaceful act of fishing could be totally successful in disrupting the war games…and the Russians didn’t want to risk the embarrassment.

But more significant than the skills that the Irish would bring to such a “peaceful engagement” is the character of the people who make their living catching fish. They are hard-working and accustomed to hardship. They are resourceful in reading and reacting to the signs that lead toward a successful catch. Of greatest significance is the fact that they are DETERMINED as well as PATIENT.

The Russians recognized a formidable opponent in an unarmed fishing fleet and backed down. Maybe Jesus recognized the same skills, qualities, and character in a group of commercial fishermen and put them to work in spreading the Good News! We know this for certain: Peter and his crew set out that night as fishermen, but they came ashore as DISCIPLES!

We can say something else with certainty, at least about Peter. He was HONEST as well as HUMBLE! With all humility, Peter humbled himself before The Lord and acknowledged his sinfulness; a gesture, by the way, which Peter found himself needing to repeat on several occasions, even as he put all of his skills, gifts, and talents to the work that Jesus had entrusted to him.

There is another force currently operating in our world, far more menacing than any “superpower” flexing its military muscles. What has been referred to as “the culture of death” is amassing an army of thoughts and ideas at the very borders of our Church. At its least threatening, it ignores the Good News, although sometimes mocking or challenging our faith. At its most aggressive, this adversary actively persecutes our sisters and brothers. The objective is to usher in the so-called “post-Christian era.”

So then, like Peter, most of us, in all honesty and humility, have no choice but to acknowledge that we are not perfect…we are sinful. Still, by virtue of our Baptisms, we have been chosen by The Lord to continue the work of that first group of fishermen that Jesus commissioned as disciples. We might well enter the waters of Baptism as sinners, but we will rise up from the waters of Baptism as disciples.

Furthermore, with the graces we are given through the other Sacraments, we inherit all the skills and abilities that Peter and his crew used to face off against the same storm clouds that loom over us today. If we are determined and patient, we can sail peacefully into these troubled waters, confident that Christ will prevail. Our goal is not to defeat, but to convert!

Maybe the takeaway from this week’s Liturgy of the Word can be summed up as simply as this: “Listen lads, out you go, fish away, no worries!”