The episode of a surprising and unexpected catch of fish in the Sea of Galilee has been edited by the evangelist Luke to encourage the Church when it experiences that all its efforts to communicate its message fail. What we are told is very clear: we should put our hope in the strength and the appeal of the Gospel.
The account begins with an unusual scene. Jesus is standing by the sea and the people are crowding around him to listen to God’s word. They are there not because of curiosity. They go near not to see wonders. They only want to hear from Jesus the word of God.
It is not Saturday. They are not assembled in the nearby synagogue of Capernaum to hear the readings that are read to the people throughout the year. They have not gone up to Jerusalem to listen to the Temple priests. What attracts them so much is the Gospel of the Prophet Jesus, rejected by the residents of Nazareth.
The fishing scene is also unusual. Working by themselves at night, at a time more favorable to fishing, Peter and his partners do not get any result. When, already daytime, they lower the nets, trusting only the word of Jesus who directs their work, against all expectations, an abundant catch ensues.
In the background of the data that increasingly make self-evident the crisis Christianity is going through among us, there is one undeniable fact: the Church is irremediably losing the power to attract and the credibility that only a few years ago it had.
We Christians are experiencing that our capacity to transmit faith to the new generations is declining more and more. Efforts and initiatives have not been lacking. But apparently it is neither solely nor primarily about creating new strategies.
The time has come to remember that the Gospel of Jesus has a strong appeal that we do not have. The crucial question is: Do we go on “doing things” from the perspective of a Church that keeps losing appeal and credibility, or do we put all our energies into recovering the Gospel as the only power that has the capacity to engender faith in today’s men and women?
Do we not have to put the Gospel in the foreground of everything? What is most important in these critical times are not the doctrines that have been developed over the centuries, but rather the life and person of Jesus. What is decisive is not that people come to take part in things we do, but that they come into contact with him. The Christian faith is awaken only when people discover the fire of Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
February 10, 2013
5 Ordinary Time (C)