Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Patience. That's what most people would say if you asked them what virtue must every great fisherman must possess. Patience is also useful in hunting and shopping (the indoor version of hunting). Whether you are fishing with a hook or a net, the virtue of patience makes it possible for you to survive one disappointment after another. It also allows you to feel perfectly justified trying again and again: uh, nothing this time. . .oh well, the day is young, let's try it one more time. Having a small cache of patience myself—reserved for driving in NOLA—I find fishing, hunting, shopping to be tedious and pointless. I agree with Dave Barry, who says, “Fishing is boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.” Yeah. All slime and gills and eyeballs. A wonderful day by the lake ruined by guts, blood, and the smell of dead fish. So, when Jesus promises to make his followers into “fishers of men,” I want to ask, “Um, Lord. . .do you think you could make me a teacher of men instead, or maybe a spiritual director, something like that?” Fishing, hunting, shopping for souls can be boring, disappointing, even disgusting work. But. . .it's what we all have vowed to do on this trip to holiness.
When Jesus calls Andrew, James, John, and Simon to join him to become “fishers of men,” they have no idea what he's getting them into. Since fishing is both boring and disgusting, they must've figured that anything would be better than spending a day hauling fish out of the sea. Of course, it would be flippant to dismiss their acceptance of Jesus' invitation simply b/c fishing might be boring and disgusting. What if Jesus sees something in these men that he needs for his mission? What if he sees patience, determination, a willingness to stick with a job until it's done? And what if, when Jesus calls them, these men recognize in Jesus a man who needs—truly needs—these particular gifts? When God calls us to serve Him by serving His people with our gifts, that's what happens: He sees in us a gift that needs to be put to work, and we see in His work a job that needs doing. Jesus turns “fishing” into a metaphor for preaching, teaching, healing, blessing, consoling, feeding—in general, ministering to those who need to see and hear the presence of God, actually feel in the person of His disciples a loving spirit, someone who genuinely expects something extraordinary to happen for no other reason than that God promises it will.
Andrew, James, John, and Simon don't know it when Jesus walks by but he's been calling them to discipleship since the moment of their conception. That the Son of God actually walks by and uses his voice to say, “Come, follow me” is a privilege beyond measure. That these men are graced so is no reason for us to feel slighted in the least. Sure, they experience an undeniable call, a vocation so unambiguous that it cannot be mistaken for anything else. Our individual calls may be slightly less dramatic and a bit more ambiguous but they no less urgent, no more deniable for being so. Each one of us is called from the moment of our conception to put our individual gifts to work for the glory of the Kingdom. There is no denying this. Each one of us has vowed before the whole Church to be “fishers of souls.” And each one of us renews that vow when we bless ourselves with holy water and approach the altar for communion. What else can we doing here this morning but tapping into the Eucharist in order to bring our imperfections closer to the perfection of Christ? The Letter to the Hebrews reads, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways. . .in these last days, he spoke to us through the Son. . .” In this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, this morning here at St. Dominic's, the Son speaks to us, “Come, follow me.” Follow him. And the work that needs doing can begin._____________
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