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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Hearing the Word of God

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret.

(Luke 5:1 NKJV)

This passage from the evangelist Luke is particularly dear to me, as it is the opening prompt for my latest book, "I Will Make You Fishers of Men," dedicated to the theme of biblical leadership. Jesus was at the Lake of Gennesaret surrounded by a huge throng, so he did not speak in the midst of it, but came out and got into Simon Peter's boat, positioning himself in front of it. My attention is caught by the crowd huddling around Him to hear the word of God. A detail reported by the evangelist to point out that the people did not flock to Jesus to hear Him speak, as reported in other episodes. Nor did they go to receive loaves and fishes to eat or any other miracle. They were there only to hear the word of God-Jesus is the One who speaks from God.

This is one of the rare times when people were not looking for something personal, but went to hear the word. This allows me to ask myself with you: Today what motivates us to go to church, to open the Bible or to call on His name? When we go to the Lord, the desire to listen to Him is not enough; there must also be an intention to do so without distraction of any kind. Simon was in a privileged listening position, being in the boat at His side. This is another detail offered by Luke, namely that the Master once in the boat does not position Himself in the bow or stern, but sits down. This demonstrates that Jesus' speaking, even if it is done with authority, is not distant; rather He inspires confidence and serenity. God's word does not instill fear, but infuses serenity into hearts. Between the lines it is possible to catch another thought. Luke did not find it necessary to report what Jesus said but, simply, to emphasize that His words were God's word. This has the ability to give life where there is death, is able to bring consolation where there is desolation, is able to turn the desert into a garden.

As in this circumstance, we are not the ones who always have to ascend to the size of Christ, but from time to time it is He who sits in our boat. Once He ascends, He speaks to our lives and to those in front of us. Jesus had noticed that Simon and the others had returned to shore with empty nets, but He did not approach to give them a solution, but to bring the word of God. If we seek the Lord, it should not be because we have some contingent problem, but because we want to hear His word. What animates your heart? On that day, after speaking to the crowd, Jesus asked Simon to put out to sea and cast the nets: this is the action of faith. Before the challenge of God's word, however, we seek explanations and justifications. When God approaches us, we still remain human beings and as such, we relate as finite beings who complain about the vain efforts directed at applying it in the concrete, but often unsuccessful way. If our faith listened more to His word and was not conditioned by surrounding news or facts, we would act like Simon: "At your word I will let down the nets."

This is what is perhaps lacking! We listen, but afterwards we seek explanations or make excuses, whereas faith comes from hearing... (Romans 10:17). Jesus said to Martha, sister of Lazarus, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you wouldsee the glory of God?” (John 11:40). The Centurion of Capernaum also remains an example for us when he told Jesus that it was not necessary for him to go to his home to heal his sick daughter: he was persuaded that with one word from Him she would be healed. If after believing, we act by God's word, the nets are filled with fish, the legs begin to walk, the difficulties vanish. In the episode of the passage under consideration, the crowd listened, and after one was challenged by the word. The moment Peter saw the nets filled with fish he did not rejoice with joy, but asked the Lord to turn away, recognizing himself as a miserable sinner who had not believed. In fact, the Word also has the power to reveal our condition. Are we ready to acknowledge that we are unworthy of His presence? Yet He got into our boat and spoke to our lives and now He challenges us!


Weekly Bible Reading

Plan #20

May 08, 2 Kings 4-6; Luke 24:36-53

May 09, 2 Kings 7-9; John 1:1-28

May 10, 2 Kings 10-12; John 1:29-51

May 11, 2 Kings 13-14; John 2

May 12, 2 Kings 15-16; John 3:1-18

May 13, 2 Kings 17-18; John 3:19-36

May 14, 2 Kings 19-21; John 4:1-30

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