Wednesday, February 10, 2016


“Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”. 

This was Sunday’s gospel acclamation, and it was repeated, slightly different, in the Gospel reading. It is the call Jesus gave to Simon Peter and the Zebedee boys. Like the Gospel the first two readings were also about being called. A fitting weekend to reflect on after recently writing our evaluations and Friday’s integration day where we were asked to look at the common threads these past couple of months and what has challenged, affirmed and surprised us about accepting this call?
A call can come from anywhere; as we all know. Whether it is a call to religious life or to a ministry or even to a fertile fishing area. Just as important as the call itself is the willingness to listen to it and to honestly say yes. If the disciples had not agreed to let Jesus speak from the boats they would not have heard his message, if they had not trusted that this carpenter knew something about fishing they would not have put their nets out again, and if they had not accepted that this teacher had quite a bit more to say they would not have given up their lives to follow him. Do we do that? Do we give up our lives? Do we respond, as in the first reading from today, with “Here I am, send me”?
As religious we could probably argue that yes, we do. We give up security of a future we have been building, a career, a nuclear family; and find we need to trust in a future that is unknown. Even once we are in religious life and accepted all that is involved in that we need to continue to accept the constant call to new places, people, and experiences. Some we might be suited for and some we can’t imagine will ever fit.
It is because we can’t imagine that it can be hard for us to accept a call. Simon first objected to going out to fish again, giving a very good reason of having worked all night and having not caught anything. I know I ignored or objected to the first few calls, well quite a few calls, to religious life. Given what I thought my future would be, the life I had planned, becoming a religious wasn’t even on my radar. God knew this though. God knew that I would need multiple, some subtle and some not so subtle calls. I did not feel I was suited for the life, I was not worthy of it, I do not have the talent or skill or even the relationship with God to make accepting the call a possibility. So not only was I going to need to hear the message from the boat but I was also going to need to see the sign of the fishes. Both of these were needed before I could say yes to following Jesus. But I’m not alone, in fact, objecting to God’s call, usually because of a feeling of unworthiness, is a pretty strong theme that runs throughout the Bible; Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, Peter, Paul (who reminds the readers often of his unworthiness) just to name a few.
I think it is because of this constant objecting that Jesus called so many fishermen. Yes, in that area there were a lot of fishermen and so statistically speaking he was bound to call some. But I think it’s more than that. Fishing takes a lot of patience, with no guarantee of results. Which is why I don’t fish. It’s time consuming. And I don’t really mind time consuming if I know there is a payout in the end but like the day that Jesus got into the boats, they had been out all night and hadn’t caught a thing. That has to be super frustrating. Being fishers of people was going to be the same thing. Long hours, hardships, people with a lot of doubts, not knowing what the outcome would be, hoping for a large haul and only bringing in the weak and outcasts. This was going to be hard, frustrating work that required a lot of patience. And so Jesus knew what kind of people he needed for the work.
Like I said, I don’t know that I would like to fish, I don’t know that I could accept that call. Thankfully there are others that can do this kind of work, that do have the patience, that are willing to go out time and again to bring people to the Word…there are people that can accept that call.
Thankfully too, the scriptures give us other examples, examples that I can relate to, that can help me accept my call, examples like Paul who was “one abnormally born”, as the NAB translates it, “one untimely born” as most other translations have it. But I like the “abnormally born” translation, it holds other connotations that untimely does not. It says to me that no matter how weird or at least unsuited I might feel, God will call me, and with the help of grace, I can overcome my feelings or at the very least use my abnormality, Paul did, and so was able to accept his call. I can use my abnormality to reach others in their own spaces, in their own abnormalities. So together, the fishermen patiently bringing in the swarms and the abnormally born bringing in the other weirdos, we can hope to reach the world, so that all can hear the Word. Or as Paul put it a little more eloquently:

Therefore, whether it be I or they,
so we preach and so you believed