Stay in the Boat

Stay in the Boat

“And getting into one of the boats, the one that was Simon’s, He asked him to put out a little from the land.”

The Lord is with us, dear brothers, dear faithful, or rather, we are with Him in this boat of Simon Peter’s. This morning’s passage from the Holy Gospel gives us an example of how we ought to see Christ’s Church, and our place within it. The Lord mounts Simon’s boat, the boat of him who is to become Christ’s Vicar on earth; Simon Peter has yet to make his great profession of faith, and is but a humble fisherman, yet the Lord chooses him. After having preached to the crowds, He tests Simon; knowing what is to happen, He asks Simon to return to the deeps and let down his nets once more. Simon, quite logically for such an experienced fisherman, protests: “Master, the whole night through we have toiled and have taken nothing; but at Thy word I will lower the net.”[1] We can imagine Simon’s irritation; he is an expert fisherman, he has worked all night without taking any fish into his boat, and yet, this Teacher, who has probably not fished a day in His life, is telling him how to do his job. Yet he trusts, he obeys, and does what the Lord commands him. And we know the result, the miraculous catch of fish. Simon’s boat is to be filled; there are so many fish to be brought into the boat, that he needs the help of his comrades. And what is Simon’s reaction? He is cut to the heart with repentance for his disbelief and his distrust, and asks the Lord to depart from him, a sinful man. And Christ’s reply? “Henceforth, you shall catch men.”[2] I will associate you most intimately in my saving mission, to bring all the souls that I have created into this boat, which is Mine, and of which I place you as its visible head. “And when they had brought their boats to land, they left all and followed Him.”[3]

Is this not a wonderful image of Holy Mother Church? We all find ourselves in this Barque of Peter, this boat which the Lord Christ has built, has entered and in which He has taken up His abode. He has left a Vicar at the helm, as Simon Peter was the captain of his boat; He has called many comrades to assist in this mission; He has made many to be the fishers of men, despite their unworthiness, despite their weakness and lack of courage. And what will keep the Lord’s fishermen on the path He has marked out for them? It is the imitation of the Apostles; the Lord’s ministers must leave all and follow Him. This is a great demand, and yet, it is absolutely indispensable. The struggles and trials we see in this age, which we have also seen in ages past, result from a lack of willingness to leave everything the world prizes, everything the world judges to be of value, to leave this all behind and to follow Christ single-mindedly. Make no mistake, Peter’s ship is being knocked about on the stormy sea; in the words of St Ambrose, it is “buffeted by tempests, but still… [it] is filled with fishes. For a while, to labour is the condition of the Church, but, hereafter, it shall be to rejoice.”[4] Thus has it been since the beginning, and thus will it be until the end of time. It remains the duty of the Church to bring in those fish, “swim[ing] in the troubled waters of human life”[5], to lift them from the depths of sin and misery, and bring them on to the deck of that divinely perfect, yet humanly imperfect Boat which is the Lord’s chosen instrument of our salvation. We may find ourselves at times complaining about others on the boat, including its captain and his assistants, but would we really rather jump overboard and back into the stormy sea?

Dear brothers, dear faithful, we must pray much on this day for Holy Mother Church and those called to steer the ship through such troubled waters, that they may not lose courage to hold firm to what Christ has revealed to us, and if they have faltered from this path, to regain a firm grasp on His Truth, without which we cannot be saved. But do not lose hope! It may seem that things are rather bleak, but the holy liturgy for this day places another great figure before our eyes to encourage us in this battle. In the office of Matins for this day, we begin to read of the encounter between that great type, that great prefigurement of Christ, David, who will do battle with the giant Goliath. It is as if Holy Mother Church is placing these two different images of the Church before us; Simon Peter’s boat, and David saving the Chosen People from sure destruction. It can seem to us at times that the Church is much like David; small, weak, unable to defend herself from the attacks coming from without. But we are reminded that the Lord’s chosen have something far greater than worldly might or knowledge on their side. They have the Lord Himself, who chooses whom He wills. And He chooses the humble, the weak, and the lowly to save His people – Peter, David. St Augustine reminds us that we needn’t be concerned of powerful enemies if we but have Christ on our side for though it is true that the devil “is very powerful…, his lordship is over the lukewarm and the careless, and such as fear not God in truth.”[6] We may seem as insignificant as the shepherd David, or feel like we are on a boat which is going under, but if we fear, respect and reverence the Lord, if we love Him with all our hearts, we have nothing to be concerned about. We, who have been signed with His cross, have nothing to fear from attack if we give ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, and follow Him, leaving all behind as the Apostles did.

Let us renew on this day our devotion to Holy Mother Church, let us renew our commitment to pray for our shepherds, not matter how difficult this can be at times, knowing that it is by our prayers and sacrifices that the graces necessary for them to undertake their God-given role can be obtained. I encourage you to meditate on the collect of today’s Mass throughout this coming week: “Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that the course of the world may be directed according to Thy rule in peace and that Thy Church may have the joy of serving Thee undisturbed.”[7] The Lord is in control, my dear friends, and it is under His sweet yoke that we will find peace.


[1] St Luke 5:5

[2] St Luke 5:10

[3] St Luke 5:11

[4] St Ambrose, Book 4 on St Luke, ch5

[5] Ibid.

[6] St Augustine, Sermo 197 de Tempore

[7] Oration for the 4th Sunday after Pentecost