September 24, 2023

Homily for the First Sunday of Luke - "Fishers of Men" (Metr. Augoustinos of Florina)

 Homily for the First Sunday of Luke

Luke 5:1-11

"Fishers of Men"

(A Homily Delivered on a Radio Station in Larissa in 1949)

By Metropolitan Augoustinos (Kantiotes) of Florina

"Do not be afraid; from now on you will be fishers of men." (Lk. 5:10)

Those of us, my beloved, who live in this corner of the Balkans, which is bathed by the waves of the Mediterranean, will have seen the beautiful sight that fishing presents. Homer and other ancient poets gave a description of fishing.
As then, so today, small ships, the trawlers, tear the waters, proceed to the depths, open the nets in a semicircle, and with them the fishermen, holding the two ends of the trawl, drag it to the shore.

He approaches. What does he bring? Everyone's curiosity peaks, the children impatiently wait to see. Fishermen, rejoice! the net is full, fish small and great.

"But why do you speak of this?" you will ask; "Do you want to teach a fishing lesson?"

No. The Bible speaks of fishermen and today the Gospel describes a wondrous fishing.

Peter and Andrew, John and James cast their nets in the lake all night. But all their efforts were fruitless. Not a speck in the net. They will not go today to sell, so how will their families live?

While some melancholy was spreading, the sun suddenly comes to spread optimism and joy, the spiritual sun of humanity, Christ. He likes to socialize with working people.

The first Worker comes to the workers. And the first work He will do among them is teaching. But where should He stand to teach? There is neither a synagogue nor a hall there.

Jesus climbs into a boat, Peter's, makes the stern a pulpit, and from there He teaches the multitudes who have gathered on the shore. When he finished, wanting to give the image of a great truth, he tells Peter to steer the boat out into the open and to cast the nets again.

Peter raises objections at the beginning; after all he is courageous, yet he carries out His word. And the miracle happens.

What the labors of a whole night could not achieve, a word of the Lord achieved. The nets fill up, tear from the weight of the fish, and two fishing boats are in danger of sinking.

The fishermen, veterans of the sea, are amazed at the unprecedented fishing. And then Jesus, the great Fisherman, says to Peter: "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be fishers of men" (Lk. 5:10), meaning from now on you will catch people. Peter, what you saw and you are amazed by is small in comparison to another huge miracle, which will happen shortly.

Another kind of net will be spread. The people who think and live far from God, in a sea of passions, and remain uncaught, will be caught in the nets of God's love.

In your days, Peter, an ancient prophecy will be fulfilled: "Behold, I will send for many fishermen, says the Lord, and they shall fish them" (Jer. 16:16). You will be one of those fishermen, Peter. Rejoice, therefore, "from now on you will be fishers of men."

* * *

In Greece around the year 450 BC, Socrates appeared. While the Athenians lived in idolatry, in ignorance of God and of themselves, he managed to rise from this dark abyss to the top, to see some rays of light and, like some fish approaching from the depths to the surface, jump for a little out of the water and they see the world above the sea, so he also rose to a higher concept of life and saw the world of "ideas", the world of the spirit.

From the little that he saw, he was enchanted and from then on he sought to attract others to it as well.

His goal was to teach young and old the most difficult lesson, "Know Thyself".

He devoted himself to it.

From morning to night, he cast his nets, trying to attract followers, especially new ones. Years, decades, he worked. And the result? Whatever the result of the disciples' fishing in Tiberias without Jesus. "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing" (Lk. 5:5), even Socrates could repeat, who could not morally change not one continent, not one city, not even the inhabitants of his district.

Philosophy is fruitless. But what do I see! Socrates and you other ancient philosophers, wake up from your graves, turn to the east and see!

Someone is talking. Flames fly from his tongue, gold flows from his lips. And the result? On the same day three thousand souls, who hear, decide to change their way of life!

Who is he? He did not attend your schools, he did not learn philosophy, he did not listen to Pericles or Demosthenes or Cicero, he does not wear a philosophical garment.

He is a man of the people. Until yesterday he was casting his nets in the lake, living the life of the humble. You proud sages would not accept him even in the courtyard of your academies. But now he is convincing people with his words. A fisherman seduces. And it is, if you will, the first discourse he utters.

It will continue. He will preach elsewhere, he will reach as far as Rome, and in his nets he will constantly catch new souls. His voice will call out to those in the depths of error and sin: "Be saved from this perverse generation" (Acts 2:40).

This wonderful fisherman is the one to whom Christ said one morning, "From now on you will be fishers of men." How is this power explained? Who taught him how to save souls? This art is not human, it is not taught in European schools with pastoral psychologies.

According to Gregory the Theologian, this art is the "art of arts and science of sciences".

It is from above, from the Holy Spirit. "I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions" (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:17).

With this supernatural help, Peter and the other fishermen of Galilee managed to attract peoples and nations to Christ, to change the earth.

The change was such that, boasting in the Lord, Paul asked: "Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" (I Cor. 1:20).

* * *

This power has not ceased to act throughout history. Want a newer example? What was Saint Kosmas the Aitolos? A simple monk. But he had studied at the school of Galilee. He left the Holy Mountain, toured Macedonia and Epirus, reached Berat and Avlona, and preached the glories of Christ.

How many miracles did he not perform, how many prophecies did he not say, how many souls did he not save! And not only then, but also after his death, he continues to inspire and teach our people. "From now on you will be fishers of men." The nets of Christ continue to work miracles even today!

At every point of life, everywhere, you will meet souls, men and women, who humbly and quietly continue the work of the apostles of Christ. Who will recount their exploits?

Catechetical schools, orphanages, health centers, leprosy centers, various other asylums, but above all souls who see the light of truth, these are where fruits of their spiritual fishing are to be found.

Astonishment catches us seeing "the wild side of the fishes" that they catch.

* * *

Our homeland, my beloved, is not like the Dead Sea; it was Christ's chosen fishing ground. Here, the first preachers of the gospel, the apostle Paul and his co-workers, cast their nets, and they were successful, they caught many souls.

In recent years, however, a storm has passed: winds blew, ups and downs took place, its clear waters became cloudy. And in the murky waters, Lucifer finds an opportunity for piracy; he casts his own nets and catches souls.

However, Christ, the mystical Fish but also the Great Fisherman, orders everyone who has undertaken to continue his divine work: "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch" (Lk. 5:4).

He says this mainly to the Orthodox bishops and priests: "Fishermen of souls, why do you sit still? In parishes, barracks, schools, orphanages, factories, hospitals, prisons, everywhere, open the net again, use the holy baits, the types of pastoral care; and you will see that with persistent systematic work under the commandments of the Lord, the temples, these blessed fishing ships, will be flooded with souls, and astonishment will occupy the world, because from the waves of the Mediterranean a new Christian Greece will emerge again, enveloped in the glory of martyrdom and virtue.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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