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In today’s Gospel, Luke recounts the story of ordinary people. The evangelist provides a narrative of Jesus responding to requests from the local community. We hear today about the occurrence of the unexpected and remarkable within daily life and with the help of people who are not perfect but sinful. Also, this story foreshadows that which today we call Church.
First, we are told a story of ordinary people.
The setting by the Lake of Gennesaret among those fishing informs us that this day may be just another day in this community. People are out doing their jobs, trying to earn a living. They are looking for food for themselves and their loved ones. Jesus was probably out looking for food as well. Clearly, this lake is a place of central gathering. Jesus is among the people. In this story, ordinary people are privileged. An average fisherman lends Jesus his boat to be the platform from which to share the word of God.
Second, we hear within this story Jesus listening first then responding to the desires and needs of the crowd.
Like I said before, in this story, ordinary people are privileged. The crowd is pressing Jesus to speak. Jesus responds to their requests. The crowd is calling Jesus. Those present, the local community, recognize Jesus as someone special with wise words to share. It is a lovely play on the incarnation as the crowd has asked him, the Incarnate Word, to share the word of God. Jesus listens to the needs and desires of the local community before he responds.
Third, we hear today about the occurrence of the unexpected within daily life and with the help of people who are not perfect but sinful. The Gospel clearly says “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.’” Without Simon Peter, Jesus would not have been able to go into the water on the boat to teach the crowd. The fish may not have felt the strong presence of God and come to see what was happening. It was Simon Peter who assisted Jesus in responding to the needs of the community; to those pressing Jesus to share the word of God; to those fishermen who had worked for hours and throughout the night, yet caught nothing. It was because Simon Peter aided Jesus that the community of fishermen were able to come together to fill their boats with the abundance of fish. Simon Peter plays a key role in helping to co-create a space for the extraordinary amongst the ordinary - not as someone who is morally superior or perfect but as someone who is humble and self-reflective.
Fourth, foreshadowing of the Church.
Many times this Gospel reading is linked to the story near the beginning of Acts where Matthias is chosen to replace Judas. The linking of these two stories has been among those scripturalized to justify male leadership in the church and an all-male Priesthood as something instituted by Jesus. The evangelist Luke mostly gives the names of men in the story of Acts 1:12 – 26 and only men are named in today’s Gospel. Yet, the evangelist also says in verse 14 of Acts 1, “All of these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.” Curious how that line easily gets overlooked in the interpretation of this story.
I wonder what it means for leadership in our Church if we focus on what Latina theologians call lo cotidiano, the everydayness, of today’s Gospel coupled with the call of the local community for Jesus to share the word of God and the foreshadowing of the Church. We can still make the connection to the story in Acts where Mattias is chosen, yet highlight verse 14 more where all were constantly devoting themselves to prayer. Church leadership then is seen as a place of prayer, listening and paying attention to the needs of the community first then responding.
As a Lay Marianist, I wonder about the inclusion of Mary in this Acts story and the everydayness of the Mary stories throughout Luke. What does it mean to be a Church that traditions stories of the unexpected and remarkable happening amongst the daily, like the large catch of fish in today’s Gospel and Mary’s yes to God’s request via the angel in Luke 1? Like Simon Peter, James, and John in today’s Gospel and Mary in Luke 1, how do we say “yes” to the unknown; to the possibility; to the struggle, to the pain, to the suffering, to listening, like Jesus, to the calls and the cries from our communities both near and far? How do we manifest our faith in the fulfillment of God’s promise as we walk with Jesus, accompanied by the Spirit, to assist God in creating spaces, like Simon Peter with his boat, where the extraordinary happens amongst the ordinary?
Neomi De Anda, Ph.D.
Neomi DeAnda, a Tejana scholar/activist and Catholic Lay Marianist, was raised between El Paso and Corpus Christi, Texas. She currently serves as Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Dayton. She holds a Ph.D. in Constructive Theology. Her research interests include Latinas and Latin American women writers in religion 1600-1900; Christology; Latin@ Theology; theology and breast milk; the Intersection of race and migrations in conjunction with the Marianist Social Justice Collaborative Racial & Immigrant Justice Team; and developing a border theology in partnership with the Hope Border Institute. She currently holds the position of President-Elect for the Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians of the United States. She has been awarded the Louisville Institute First Book for Minority Scholars grant and fellowships from the Hispanic Theological Initiative and the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology. Neomi gives much credit to her roots at St. Pius X Catholic Community in El Paso and St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas.
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