The 18thSunday after Pentecost

The Miraculous Draught of Fish

In the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen. [1]

Today is the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, and also today we commemorate the conception of the Honorable Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John. [2] The Gospel for this day is from the Evangelist Luke, and is about the miraculous draught of fish. This parable has much to teach us, if we read it carefully, and with Fathers as our guide, and with prayer.

What is the reason why the Lord did what he did? At the end of the story, we see that he says to the Apostle, or rather, the Apostle to be -- Simon Peter, that "from henceforth thou shalt catch men." [3] This miracle was, as all of His other miracles were, a demonstration of His power, and His authority. "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" [4], said the Pharisees in their stupidity, because they had seen many of the miracles, but they did not understand, but those who understood saw what authority He had. He was the One who could raise the dead, make the blind see, and the lame walk. He could still the waves, or provide abundantly in fish and bread for a multitude. He showed forth plainly His authority and his reliability by these miracles.

Our Lord is along the Lake of Gennesaret, which is by a fishing village. Simon Peter and many of the other apostles were fishermen. They had fished all night -- that was their typical method of fishing in those days, and they had caught nothing. Fishing was a very difficult craft back then, since the fish could easily escape from the nets, and the nets broke easily. The fishermen would spend all day mending their nets, and all night fishing, and in this case, they had caught nothing.

In the morning, Our Lord is along the shore, and He decides to get into a ship to thrust out a little from the land [5], and feed the people there with His sweet words. There is an allegory here, in His being a little way off the shore, and teaching from a ship. The ship is the church and the Apostles and Christ were within the ship while He taught. Therefore His words, and subsequently, the Apostle's words, are the teaching of the church. His being a little way off the land had a practical reason -- if He had launched out deep into the waters, nobody would have been able to hear Him. The spiritual meaning is this - He launched out a "little" into the water because later the Apostles would launch out into the deep, and spread the gospel to the far ends of the earth. He Himself told them: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do, "6 and indeed the Church has done greater works than Christ did. Many men, women and children have come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ through the efforts of those in the church. Many more miracles have occurred. Many more have been raised from the dead, and many more of the lame have walked than Christ even saw. They did greater works, and our Lord prepared them for their works, both by this teaching a little ways from the land, when they were yet babes, and not even yet His Apostles, and by His entire life, by showing them how to live, to act, to think, to react to things. He also taught them in privacy many things, so that they would know how to govern the church.

After He finishes his teaching, He says unto Simon: "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." [7] The nets are the gospel, that the Apostles would spread, then their Apostles, followed by their Apostles, and so on. The deep is where the world is floundering, where people are drowning and have no belief, or are in ignorance, or despair or despondency, or are addicted to sins. They do not know Christ, and their life is in an uproar and in turmoil as if they are tossed in waves, and are drowning, and our Lord says to go out into the deep to save them. We still go out into the deep to this day, with the very same nets of the Gospel, and in accordance to the teachings of the church.

Simon answers him and says: "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." [8] These are not words of disbelief, but they are words of simple obedience, from a

man who was tired and had been up all night, and taken nothing. He mentions this almost parenthetically to our Lord, and the Apostle to be Peter's words teach us something else very important. Are you ever tired, or despondent, or do your emotions ever play tricks with you? It doesn't matter. If you have faith, you live as a man with faith. Regardless of whether you are happy or sad, tired or not tired, you just obey. Even when things seem pointless, or hopeless, you know that they cannot in reality be pointless or hopeless, because you know Who it is who is telling you to do this thing. If the Lord tells you to do something, then you do it, because you know that He will bless it. When the Apostles had fished all the previous night, they had done so without God's help. He was not in the boat with them, and he had not told them to go out and let down their nets for a draught. It was not that they were being disobedient, after all they were fishermen, and that was their craft, but when Christ blessed their endeavors, and told them to do something, and was with them in the midst of their efforts, then they had a miraculous catch.

And they enveloped a great multitude of fishes and their net brake. There is another time in the Gospels when a great miracle happened and a great multitude of fishes was caught, a hundred and fifty and three and yet was their net not broken. [9] This is given in the Gospel of Saint John, and is one of the eleven matinal resurrection gospels, and it is full of deep meaning. The Apostles were babes when their net brake, because they had not absorbed all the teachings of Christ, and changed the way they thought and lived. Until our Lord taught them by His words and life, the Apostles were often at loggerheads and arguing with one another about who was the greatest and all sorts of things. Our Lord worked with them for over three years, and they were made ready. After He had resurrected Himself and came back from the dead, He then stood at the shore and said: "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find." [10], and they caught a hundred and fifty and three fishes, and yet the net was not broken. God's mercy is limitless. He can fill us abundantly, and we will never break, but there must be a period of preparation in our lives. There is effort involved, to become pliable, and to make us able to contain Him, and not break, as He fills us.

At this point in the Apostle's lives, they were not quite ready for all the abundance that God had prepared for them. At this point in our lives, we are not ready for the abundance that God gives to us - not yet. We have more living to do, more repenting to do, and more living in the context of the church to do. So the Apostles beckoned to their partners that were in another boat, that they should come and help them. This shows the cooperation in the church, and unity, to accomplish that which God intends for us. God fills us so abundantly that we will always have work to do in the church.

Simon Peter saw what had happened, and it touched him to the core. Peter was a sensitive man. He might have had hard and callused fisherman's hands, but he had the heart of a Saint. His heart was soft. He realized that he was standing in the presence of God, in this boat, with all these fish, and he said: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." [11] Much later on, he would not say such a thing, nor would the other Apostles. They dined with Him, after they had caught the miraculous catch of a hundred and fifty and three fishes, because they had been prepared by living a virtuous life, as Christ had progressively revealed them how to live and how to believe while He walked the earth. We understand this dining with Christ to be an indication of extreme intimacy with Him, which the pure in heart will obtain. When a man recognizes Christ, he should fall down before him, but indeed, not to ask Him to depart, but to ask Him to come, to ask Him to fill. Our prayers are filled with these kinds of requests. Have mercy on me, enlighten me, vivify me, make me to see, make me to feel, make me to know.

Simon Peter was unworthy at that time, and well aware of his unworthiness. He had not been purified yet. How in the world does one become such that when we fall down before Christ, it is because of adoration, and desire for Him, and not because of fear and shame over our sins? A key is seen in the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, which is also read on this day.

He says: "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." [12] In every page of the scripture, there is this dynamic, that our knowledge should make us act. If we do not act in accordance with the knowledge we have been given, then even that which we think we know will be taken away from us, and we won't know Christ, and He will not know us. The Christian life is a continual ascendancy, and continual changing of our lives. We also know in nature that if we sow only a few seeds, we will reap very little, and if we do not turn the ground carefully, and manure it, and water it, and weed it, and drive away predators from it, and hedge it round about, then we will not have a worthwhile harvest. This same principle in nature is also true in our human nature. If we do not hedge round about God's law in our hearts, and cleave to Him with every ounce of our being, then we will not have a harvest either, at the end of the world. Our Lord will tell us that he does not know us, because we have not become like Him. [13] This is our task now, in the acquiring of the Holy Spirit to become like Him. It cannot be otherwise. If a man truly knows Christ, he will become like Him. It is impossible not to be.

Are you amazed at God's great work, here recounted? When you hear of this miracle, do you tremble, or is it just another story that you hear? Maybe you know these stories very well, and know that there so many times when lepers were healed, and that there were two times when multitudes were fed, one time over five thousand, with twelve baskets left over, and another time over four thousand with seven baskets left over. If that is all the knowledge we have concerning these miracles, then they have not touched us. Our Lord is showing us - He is the Lord. He is all in all. He is all we should desire. He is all that is real for us. There is no other meaning to our life, except to acquire Christ.

Man is made to look out, and up. See how our eyes are set. We can look up easily, unlike most of the other animals, and we can look out to those around us. If we sow sparingly, or uncheerfully, or not at all, then we are not acting in accordance with our nature, with how we were made. As we look up to see God, we will naturally look out to see those Whom He loves - His children. If we do not do this, then we are liars, and we do not tell the truth [14], as the Apostle John said in his first epistle.

There is so much God wants to give us, and we cannot have this, unless we open ourselves. This is really quite easy! It is not a difficult task at all, if we have understanding. We react to what God gives us, that is all we need do. We do not need to be original or search for what to do, because He will show us, if we remain in the ship, that is, the church, and react to those murmurings of the Holy Spirit that are within our hearts. If we start to react to Him, and live as He wants us to live, then He fills us even more abundantly. This is a principle that is almost lost among most of the world that calls itself Christian. They don't understand that to become like Christ is to make ourselves able to have more knowledge of Christ - the very thing we say we want. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." [15] He has prepared these things for us, and he prepares us for these things through a slow process. "We love him, because he first loved us." [16], said the Apostle, and we react to His love, a little more today, and more tomorrow, and yet more the day after that.

Remember that Christianity is a moral life. Christianity is amendment of self, in keeping with how God reveals His commandments to us. Christianity is never static knowledge - ever. There is nothing God reveals that He does not want us to take action upon. There is nothing at all in the scriptures that we are not to react to.

God help us. God help us to build our virtues everyday, so that He can fill us, and we can attain salvation. Amen.

Sept 6, 1996, according to the Church Calendar


[2] This homily was transcribed from one given On September 6, 1996 according to the church calendar, being the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, and the day appointed for the commemoration of Conception of the Holy, Forerunner of God, the Baptist John. The Sunday Gospel is: Luke 5:1-11. There are some stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, "spoken" style. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read on a page.

[3] Matthew 5:10

[4] Matthew 21:23

[5] Matthew 5:3

6 John 14:12

[7] Matthew 5:4

[8] Matthew 5:5

[9] John 21:11

[10] John 21:6

[11] Matthew 5:8

[12] 2 Corinthians 9:6

[13] Cf. Matthew 25:41-46

[14] 1 John 2:4

[15] 1 Corinthians 2:9

[16] 1 John 4:19