13 January 2020

Fishing can be disappointing

1st Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Dave Barry, a comedian and columnist, says of fishing, “[It's] boring, unless you catch an actual fish, and then it is disgusting.” All wet gills, slime, and lidless eyeballs. I couldn't agree more. Besides being disgusting, fishing requires the one virtue that eludes me like a Weight Watchers coupon: patience. Like hunting and shopping (which is just the indoor version of hunting), fishing tests one's ability to sit still, concentrate, and suffer disappointment. . .repeatedly. I have enough self-inflicted disappointments in my life without going around trying to find more. So, when Jesus tells Simon, Andrew, James, and all of us – “Follow me and I'll make you fishers of men” – my first thought is, “Who needs that kind of disappointment?” I might've asked the Lord, “Lord, could you make me a teacher of men, or a spiritual director, or something like that?” Unfortunately, for those of us with little patience, we're fishermen. Fishermen of men. Fishing for souls can be boring, disappointing, even disgusting work. But. . .it's the work we are called to do and it's the work we all have vowed to do. “This is the time of fulfillment.The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” 
Lest you think I am casting aspersions on my vocation, allow me to clarify: my lack of patience in the holy work of fishing for souls is my principle fault. The Lord provides daily opportunities for me to practice patience, and I'm getting better. Without my vocation as a Dominican friar , I would've exploded (probably literally) years ago. What the Lord sees in Simon, Andrew, James, in me, and in you is the potential to be a world champion fisherman. Despite our failures, our frustrations; our many, many excuses and attempts to minimize our gifts, the Lord sees clearly that we have everything it takes to be great fishermen. Some of us have the patience to sit quietly for hours, bobbing tackle, bait, and hook in the water, waiting for a bite. Maybe just one bite in a lifetime of fishing. Others – like me – are tempted to dynamite the lake and drag the stunned fish into the boat before they recover. Ah ha! Too late! You belong to Jesus now! Whether we bait a hook or light a fuse, we do the work of the Lord when we follow him. This life in Christ isn't about comfort, clarity, or convenience. It's about the often disgusting, disappointing, and even boring work of leading others to his mercy. Even as we ourselves depend on that mercy. So, practice patience when you fish for souls. After all, someone fished your soul out of the muck. “The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

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