In the Divine Liturgy on the Second Sunday of the blessed Coptic month of Babah, we heard the reading from the Gospel according to St. Luke 5:1-11, which spoke to us about our Savior, His disciples, and a great catch of fish.
Our Lord Jesus Christ stood by the lake of Gennesaret and saw two boats standing by the lake. The fishermen, however, were outside of their boat washing the nets. It was morning and the fishermen had worked all night to catch fish, but they had caught nothing that particular night. Our Lord then entered one of the boats belonging to Simon Peter and asked him to thrust out a little from the land, because there was a great crowd that wanted to hear Him. He wanted to speak to them from a boat, because it was easier for the crowd to see and hear him from the shore.
When our Lord had finished speaking, He spoke to Peter and said, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4). Peter answered him and said, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net” (Luke 5:5). We all know what happened next: the caught such a great number of fish that they had to call in other fishing boats to help them carry it all. After this great miracle, Peter fell down at our Lord’s feet and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luke 5:8). In response, our Lord told him, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men” (Luke 5:10).
Acknowledging the True Identity of Christ in our Lives
We notice that, when our Lord Jesus Christ asked Peter to launch his boat into the deep, Peter responded, saying, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing…” Peter does not say, “My Lord” or “My God,” but rather, “Master.” At that time, he didn’t know Christ fully, so he addressed him in a formal and technical way, “Master.”
As we know, a great miracle occurred after this and a multitude of fish was caught. And seeing this wonder, this miraculous catch of fish, what does Peter do? He falls down at Christ’s feet. He worships this man whom he had just called “Master.” Peter says to him, “Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” What happened? Essentially, Peter went from having no knowledge of Christ to have some knowledge of Christ. And what he learned caused him to fall at Christ’s feet. Not only that, but Peter openly confessed his sinfulness to Christ. He said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.”
This story represents one of the earliest aspects of the Christian life. It teaches us about ourselves as we struggle on the path of salvation. We start, like Peter, with little or no knowledge of Christ. Of course, we acknowledge Him as something; we are at least remotely familiar that He was special, so we address Him respectfully like Peter, who called Him “Master.” But once we get to know Him more through His work in our lives, we come to a realization. And this realization causes us to fall down at His feet and worship Him while changing our view of Him as simply “Master” to “Lord.” The moment we know Christ, we confess Him as Lord and God.
This, brothers and sisters, is the true miracle in this Gospel reading. On the one hand, we call it the ‘Miracle of the Great Catch of Fish,’ but on the other hand, the real miracle is not the great catch of fish, but rather, the change that took place in the souls of Peter and the rest of the Apostles. When they were confronted with the true identity of Christ in their lives, they saw themselves clearly and knew their true essence.
In response to this miraculous change in his soul, Peter said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Like him, once we encounter the beauty of Christ and see the ugliness of our sin, we immediately fall down before Him and confess. This is consistent with the very first words of our Lord Jesus Christ to the people in the Gospel according to St. Matthew in which our Lord makes His first proclamation to a crowd of people, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). This is what happened to Peter. He didn’t know Christ fully, but when he saw the miracle and realized the Kingdom of God had come through Christ, he repented and confessed his sinfulness before Christ. We also, when we come to the knowledge of Christ and understand His Kingdom has come, repent of our old ways and confess our sinfulness to God. This is the process of our faith: first, we accept the word of Christ and fulfill it; second, the thing which is most important for our salvation, for our inner life, will be revealed to us.
Thus, this Gospel reading stands as a powerful reminder for us to acknowledge the true identity of Christ in our lives and the wondrous benefits of doing so.