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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

Peter's Boat

Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

(Luke 5:3 NKJV)

What happens in the description provided by Luke's gospel in the first verses of chapter 5 is familiar to me to the point that I relive it every time I read it. Indeed, it is from its context that my latest publication devoted to leadership, "I Will Make You Fishers of Men", came to life. That is not what I wish to talk to you about, however. This time my attention was caught by the boat, one of the two boats on the shore of the lake, on which Jesus boarded and taught the crowds, after Simon Peter had put it back in the water. This very boat would later be miraculously filled with fish to such an extent that it was in danger of sinking. Simon and the others thus had to transfer some of the catch to the other boat that had remained on shore. These two boats and the Gospel account allow us to describe the cyclical course of the church, the community of believers, between periods of stagnation, standing still on shore, or in the water for a whole night without seeing a fish. Rocked in the waves or proud ruler of the waters. Yes, because when the Lord is on board everything changes. There is no storm that cannot be faced and there is no net that cannot be puffed up. So the question is whether the Lord is welcomed or whether the boat responds to the mandate?

The boat is a very old metaphor for the Church: to go out, to set sail, to sail, to pull aboard, to bring ashore. Behind each verb a reality, an action, a necessity. There is no such thing as a stationary Church, enjoying the warm sunshine along the lakeshore, waiting for something to happen. What happens on Peter's boat speaks to us of a community ready to respond to the mandate, to the sending. It is the twelve who are first sent (Matthew 10:5) to heal wounds, to warm hearts, to bring relief and consolation without being locked up by ancient norms. That sending, at least in the Italian language, has in it "way," being for the road, going out to meet. And this is the soul of evangelization: "go out into the world." Getting up and going, breaking all torpor, leaving one's condition. A quick glance at the pages of the Old Testament reveals how God always animated the action of those who vocated, with the same and only command: get up, kum in Aramaic. Moses, Elijah, Jonah to name a few. Throughout the entire Bible hundreds of times it echoes, "get up and go." Kum is the verb for those who were standing still, on the ground; the order for those who were locked up. How I wish that in me, around me, wherever you are, may the full force of this word, Kum, resound in the wind, above and within us! When God calls, sends, sets on a journey. Here then a path is set in motion, a process begins for those who set out and trust. It is no accident if before being called "Christians" in Antioch, Jesus' disciples are identified as "those on the way."

Walking is an act of freedom; it makes one discover oneself while discovering the world. But going back to the beginnings, the first community was born on the roads of Galilee, not in the classrooms of a school or the rooms of a temple, but on the paths around Lake Tiberias. Probably in our day, many small boats have found their unnecessary quiet, firmly at their moorings, far from the dangerous sea. That is not why they were built, however. They followed the example of the servant who hid his talent for fear of losing it. You and I are called to sail, and also to face storms. We will not chase success or triumphant results, but we will enjoy on a boat on the open sea, where despite rough waters and headwinds the Master rests on board. Looking at Peter's boat, as well as a metaphor for the church, as a type of each person's life, I wish to leave you with one last encouragement with a beautiful poem by Jacques Brel.

I know of boats that stay in the harbor for fear

That the currents will drag them away too violently.

I know of boats that rust in the harbor

For never having risked a sail out.

I know of boats that forget to leave

Are afraid of the sea as they grow old

And the waves have never taken them anywhere else,

their journey is over before it has even begun.

I know boats that are so chained

That they have unlearned how to free themselves.

I know of boats that stay swaying

To be really sure they do not capsize.

I know of boats that go in groups

To face the strong wind beyond fear.

I know of boats that scratch a little

On ocean routes where their play takes them.

I know of boats that return to port torn all over,

But braver and stronger.

I know of boats overflowing with sunshine

Because they have shared wonderful years.

I know of boats that always return

Who have sailed to their last day,

And they are ready to spread their giant wings

Because they have an ocean-sized heart.


Weekly Bible Reading Plan #42

October 09, Isaiah 32-33; Colossians 1

October 10, Isaiah 34-36; Colossians 2

October 11, Isaiah 37-38; Colossians 3

October 12, Isaiah 39-40; Colossians 4

October 13, Isaiah 41-42; 1 Thessalonians 1

October 14, Isaiah 43-44; 1 Thessalonians 2

October 15, Isaiah 45-46; 1 Thessalonians 3

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