ST. LUKE 5: 10 — “FEAR NOT!”

St. Peter had a life changing encounter with Christ one day along the Sea of Gennesaret. Christ was teaching the crowd a short distance off the shore in St. Peter’s boat. After he concludes his teaching, he instructs St. Peter to put out in the water and drop his nets. St. Peter reluctantly agrees. The result was an incredible, miraculous catch of fish. His response to Jesus was an emphatic: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5: 8). Jesus does not leave. He remains in the sinner’s presence and says to him, “Fear not! From now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5: 10).

St. Peter’s response should be the response of all of us. We are to acknowledge our sinfulness in the understanding of the holiness of God Incarnate — Jesus of Nazareth. Sin cannot exist in the presence of an all holy God. Darkness can have no fellowship with light. Psalm 5 informs us of this truth. Its words speak to St. Peter’s self understanding at the moment he encountered the presence of holiness, “For you are not a god who delights in wickedness; evil may not sojourn with you” (Psalm 5: 4). But, we have Jesus’ words: “Fear not!” For Christ did not come into the world to judge it, but to save it. We find this famous verse in St. John’s gospel: “For thus God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life” (John3: 16).

I return to Psalm 5. The last half of this psalm is quoted as the clergy complete their entrance prayers in preparation of the day’s worship. This portion begins with these words, “But I, through the abundance of your merciful love, will enter your house, I will worship toward your holy temple in the fear of you” (Psalm 5: 7). This declaration is not just for the clergy, but for all who assemble each Lord’s Day. Only by God’s mercy and love may we, who are sinners, enter into the worship of an all holy God. By his mercy and love we are gathered together in fellowship — not only with each other — but with the all holy Triune God.

We are sinners. Yet, as Christ said to St. Peter, “Fear not!” We are sinners gathered into a hospital to be healed and made whole. As we worship we are cleansed by the hearing of the Scriptures and the hymns of the Church, and by receiving our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. Upon drinking his Blood from the chalice the priest says, “Behold, this has touched my lips and shall take away my transgressions and cleanse me of my sins.” The faithful, as they receive Christ’s Body and Blood, hear something very similar, “The servant/handmaiden of God (name), partakes of the precious and all-holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and for eternal life.” St. John informs us more completely,

This is the Bread which is coming down from heaven, that whoever might eat of it might not die. I am the Living Bread which came down from heaven. Whoever might eat of this Bread shall live forever, and the Bread which I shall give is my Flesh for the life of the world. Therefore, the Jews were grumbling with one another saying, “How is he able to give to us his flesh?” Therefore, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you might eat of Flesh of the Son of Man and might drink of His blood, you have no life in yourselves. The one eating my Flesh and drinking my Blood has eternal life, and I shall raise him in the Last Day. For my Flesh is true food, and my Blood is true drink. The one eating my Flesh and drinking my Blood abides in me and I in him” (John 6: 50 – 56).

The God who came to us and became one of us came for our salvation — knowing full well our condition. He says continually to those who are united to him by sacrament and walk with him by faith: “Fear not!” He gathers us together to himself in the Divine Liturgy. In the Divine Liturgy he again gives himself to us and receives us to himself to cleanse us, to confirm and strengthen our union in him, to impart to us his life and victory, and to nourish us for eternal life and communion with him.

“Fear not!” Come, taste and see that the Lord is good!

In Christ,

Fr. Irenaeus

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