November 6, 2013: Sending Jesus Away

~by Louis Templeman

Not long ago while at Resurrection Catholic Church for morning mass I was broadsided by a hammering sense of unworthiness. I felt like Simon, who in sensing the contrast between Jesus’ goodness and his own sinfulness wanted to send Jesus away.

Luke 5: 1-5: Getting into . . . (Simon’s) boat, (Jesus) asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. After he finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”

Simon, the fisherman, knew there were no fish out there to catch. He said as much but submitted saying, “. . . at your command I will lower the nets.”

At this point in their relationship the love between friends was in bloom. Jesus had called Simon. Simon was following him. Simon had invited Jesus into his home where he met the family and close friends and healed the mother-in-law. So when asked to do something strange, in opposition to the skills he used for his livelihood, he was taken aback. Who was Jesus to tell him how to fish? Nevertheless, he followed through.

Luke 5: 6-11: (After lowering the nets they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing (others came to help) and filled both boats so 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.”

This miracle catch set Simon’s heart racing. He gasped for breath as he stumbled his way through the fish toward Jesus. To Simon the presence of Jesus had almost become unbearable. He had to put distance between him and Jesus. As he kneeled before the Lord his sins had become a heavy nauseating heap he could no longer bear.

He spoke from his heart. No truer words had ever come from his lips, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Yet, for the second time Jesus’ opinion differed from Simon’s. As Jesus stared at him in silence he signaled no rejection. Simon saw in Jesus’ eyes acceptance and love. Simon realized his words could not hold up before the presence of divine love.  Jesus was calling his friend to service. He would become a fisher of men.

The earlier words about there being no fish to catch were proven untrue. Now once again Simon’s attempt to send Jesus away because of his unworthiness was also being countermanded by Jesus. It was not Simon’s idea but Jesus’ which were important.

As I walked into the assembly to worship I could understand Simon wanting to put distance between him and Jesus. I forced myself by sheer will power to enter and find a seat in an empty pew. I was immediately surprised by the lyric of the unfamiliar hymn. The choir was singing, “You are welcome here.” My resistance was destroyed. Like Simon, I realized Jesus’ words trumped mine.

~Louis Templeman

Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D.

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