Sin doesn’t come first- we get it backwards!
This past Sunday’s Gospel was St. Luke’s account of Simon’s-he who would become Peter- first encounter with Christ. St. Luke provides many details. So many in fact, that it’s easy to place ourselves there. And because of that, to write about witnessing Peter’s catch.
But there’s even more here! With his customary precision and clarity, Bishop Baron makes plain what I’d missed before: sin doesn’t come first-we get it backwards.
Axiomatic to the spiritual life- to each of our spiritual lives- is “Invasion of Grace.” A wholly splendid phrase to decsribe that first encounter with Him, is it not?
Here’s Luke’s Gospel account:
While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God,
he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
He saw two boats there alongside the lake;
the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon,
he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore.
Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.
After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon,
“Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
Simon said in reply,
“Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing,
but at your command I will lower the nets.”
When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish
and their nets were tearing.
They signaled to their partners in the other boat
to come to help them.
They came and filled both boats
so that the boats were in danger of sinking.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said,
“Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him
and all those with him,
and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee,
who were partners of Simon.
Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid;
from now on you will be catching men.”
When they brought their boats to the shore,
they left everything and followed him.
That moment when Jesus “got into your boat?”
Consider what happens here. Peter and his partners had just come in from a night of fishing. And catching nothing. Then this strange man gets into Pater’s boat and starts barking orders.
Bishop Barron remarks that an ancient Israeli man’s boat was his prized possession- his entire livelihood. No one would dare to climb into another man’s boat and then tell him to back out into deep water. After being out there all night!
But Jesus did.
And that is precisely how the spiritual life starts, isn’t it?
We are invaded by Grace, are we not?
I can remember the exact place and time that Jesus climbed into my boat. I’ll bet you can too.
And the concept of sin comes later…
Sin doesn’t come first-we get it backwards.
But St. Paul doesn’t get it backwards-he never did. Not once Jesus not only climbed into his boat but capsized it out from underneath him, that is.
Although I spent just about a year of my life studying and writing about St Paul, I know that even if I were to all my remaining days doing so, I’d not plumb the depths of St. Paul’s words, his theology:
Before faith came, we were under the constraint of the Law, locked in until the faith that was coming would be
revealed. In other words, the Law was our monitor until Christ came to bring about our justification through faith. But
now that faith is here, we are no longer in the monitor’s charge. Each one of you is a child of God because of your faith
in Christ Jesus. All of you who have been baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. In Christ there is no
Jew or Greek, slave or citizen, male or female. All are one in Christ Jesus. Furthermore, if you belong to Christ, you are
the offspring of Abraham, which means you inherit all that was promised.
Only after Peter, most likely not even knowing why he does it, obeys Christ, only then does he appreciate his true nature: a sinner.
Depart from me Lord for I am a sinner.
How often have I mixed it up in my own mind- worse when replying to an unbeliever’s question or comment? Sin does not come first-we get it backwards!
How else can we reply after oh so tentatively and hestitantly putting out into deep water and been drowned in grace? “Depart from me Lord…”
He could have made John the rock on which He founded His Church.
But He didn’t.
No, it was Peter.
Not John who stayed at the foot of the Cross. Not John the beloved of his heart to whom He entrusted His Mother.
But Peter: braggard, impetuous, passionate, unthinking Peter.
Perhaps like you, I think-and therefore write, about Peter.
This man who mirrors my cowardice and thoughtlessness.
A man who seemed wholly oblivious to the depth of his flaws and limitations.
Though our situation may have been somewhat unique, the temptation [to
give up] was not. It is the same temptations faced by everyone who has
followed a call and found that the realities of life were nothing like the
expectations he had in the first flush of his vision and his enthusiasm…
You must forgive me, God, but I want to go back. You cannot hold me to a
promise made in ignorance; you cannot expect me to keep a covenant based on
faith without any previous knowledge of the true facts of life. It is not fair…
And then one day, together, it dawned on Father Nestrov and me. God granted
us the grace to see the solution from his viewpoint rather than from ours. It was
the grace not to judge our efforts by human standards, or by what we ourselves
wanted or expected to happen, but rather according to God’s design, with the
real world ordained by God and governed ultimately by his will…. Not the will of
God as we might wish it, or as we might have envisioned it, or as we thought in
our poor human wisdom it ought to be. But rather the will of God as God
envisioned it and revealed it to us each day in the created situations with which
he presented us. His will for us was the twenty-four hours of each day: the
people, the places, the circumstances he set before us in that time…