Go Out Into the Deep

Rapael Draught of Fishes

First, a little art history lesson. During the Renaissance, artists transferred their designs to the wall, canvas or drapery using what was called a “cartoon.” This term comes from the Italian word for paper (cara) and the suffix “-one,” so basically it was a large piece of paper. After the art was created on the cartoon, either the artist or someone else would transfer the design onto its final location.

Most Renaissance artist, like Raphael, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci, used cartoons. They would make pinpricks along the lines of the work and then rub powder or dust across the back of the sheet to create a mirror image of the composition. This procedure – known as “pricking” or “pouncing” – often damaged the paper and most cartoons did not survive. Michelangelo burned most of his cartoons because he didn’t want others to see his techniques, plus he wanted people to think he was divinely inspired. Only two of his cartoons have survived.

The above painting is a cartoon of Raphael’s commission to design ten draperies for the lower parts of the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Seven cartoons survived and this is one of the most famous. It is linked to this week’s text (Luke 5:1-11) where we hear how Simon Peter has been fishing all night but has caught nothing. Jesus tells him to throw his nets out into the deep. Peter is a little skeptical but concludes: “if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When he hauls them back in, he is stunned to find them full and needing another boat to help with the teeming mass of fish.

Imagine Peter’s astonishment, for he knows first-hand that the fish aren’t biting; he knows the shallows are better for catching fish than the deep; he knows night time is better for catching fish than the middle of the day—but he accepts Jesus’ invitation to “go out into the deep.”

How hard is it for us to follow Jesus’ invitation to trust him even in our “deep” places; even when what he asks of us doesn’t make sense? Can we believe, as Peter did, that we don’t have to be afraid because Jesus is in the boat with us? He will never ask us to step out in faith and then abandon us. Jesus could have just ordered the fish to jump into the boat, but he opted to have Peter do the hard work of throwing out the net in trust.

Being Human connection: It would seem miracles happen as we step out in faith, not before.

Featured image: Raphael, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, 1515-1516

P.S. After the Renaissance and the decline of frescos, the cartoon fell out of use and eventually took on its modern meaning of another type of drawing, frequently used in political satire and later in illustrations.