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Ready for better fishing

First slide

Mark 1:14-20

Although fishing is hard work and requires lots of time, it is certainly possible, even likely, that the disciples of Jesus were among the people who heard Him speak when He “came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God.” It is also likely that they knew of John the Baptist and that they might well have heard him, too. Among the disciples of Jesus there was a kind of docility, a willingness, a disposition toward the truth spoken by Him and by John. Of course, some were more devout than others. This Sunday, we meditate on the Galilean fishermen whom Jesus called. They are Simon Peter and his brother, Andrew, and James and his brother, John. All of them are fishermen. We see them respond without hesitation to a dramatically more important kind of fishing when Jesus walks by and calls them.


If we presume that they were aware of John’s call to repentance and that they lived with an active hope in the coming of the Messiah we can put ourselves in their shoes or sandals or bare feet (whatever the custom might be for fishing then). Fishermen become very adept at their trade. Even people who fish for fun will be dedicated to learning how to do it better. In the case of our disciples we can imagine that their labors and the monotony of it all might have grown tedious. Still, anyone who has fished for fun or for food or to make a living knows that there is an excitement and a pleasing reward that accompanies a successful catch of fish. These four disciples were most likely content with their life, even taking into account the difficulty of it.


Day after day, or night after night, the fishermen (and our four disciples) used their good skills and did their part to make a good catch of fish. The work, the waiting, the hoping, then the gratifying success or the disappointing failure — this was the pattern of their lives. During the trips back and forth across their best fishing areas of the Sea of Galilee they would have had time to think and reflect. Fishing at night is especially good for the kind of wonder that can lead to a deeper kind of thought and then even to prayer. The silence and the beauty of fishing on the sea combine well with the need to do one’s part and then trust that a good catch would be made. There is a special balance in the life of honest work and sincere belief. We can find it in the daily lives of Peter, Andrew, James and John. Men who really hoped for the promised One to come, these fishermen would have found the interior way to call out to Him, to express to Him their longing for the Good News He would bring.


Day after day, night after night, they lived the life of work and trust, wonder and hope. What changed in their thoughtfulness and prayer under the stars when word came of John the mysterious man but effective preacher? Can we imagine the effect in their minds and hearts if one (or more) of them brought word of his own experience of the baptism of repentance offered by John? Even more powerful would have been the effect of an encounter with Jesus Himself. Hearing Jesus speak would have a profound effect on a person praying for the Messiah to come. If one soon-to-be disciple-fisherman listened to Jesus, even from a distance behind the crowd, he would return to his work with a need to tell the others.  


Day after day, night after night, we can do our work with an attention to the words and teaching of Jesus. We know the truth of all that He did and said. Perhaps our call from Him has been given and received. Even so, He continues to find us and He invites us to share His work. No fisherman ever wanted to be told he was no good at what he did. Our four disciple-fishermen were ready to respond without hesitation when THE fisherman of fishermen called them to put their skills and well-trained trusting ways to work for a more important catch. We can live like that. We can respond to Him without hesitation.


Fr. Zuberbueler is pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018