When Peter reaches the shore after the miraculous draft of fishes, there takes place something totally unexpected. Peter does not throw his arms around Jesus, as we might have expected, to thank him for the good catch. Instead, he falls at Jesus’ feet. He does not cling to him in order to extract the promise of another succesful fishing expedition; he thrusts Jesus from him because he is afraid of the power of God. “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8).
When a man experiences God, he recognizes his own sinfulness, and it is only when he really knows and acknowledges this sinfulness that he really kows himself. And in that way he becomes truly himself. Only when a man knows that he is sinful and has comprehended the evil of sin does he also comprehend the summons: “Repent, and believe in the good news” (Mk 1:15).
For without conversion, it is impossible to discover Jesus, to discover the Gospel. I am reminded here of Chesterton’s paradoxical sentence that states this thought with great accuracy: We know a saint by the fact that he knows he is a seinner. The failure of modern man to experience God is reflected today in his failure to experience sin, and vice versa, his failure to acquire this knowledge draws him away from God.
Without regressing to a false pedagogy of anxiety, we should learn once more the truth of the words: Initium sapentiae timor Domini. Wisdom, genuine understanding, begin with the proper fear of the Lord. We must relearn this if we are to learn true love and to undertand what it means when we say that it is permitted us to love God and that he loves us.
Peter’s experience is likewise a fundamental prerequisite for the apostolate and thus for the priesthood. Conversion- the first word of Christianity- can be preached only by one who has himself had personal experience of its necessity and has, in consequence, comprehended the greatness of grace.
From:Diener eurer Freude, pp. 92-93