Tag Archives: fishermen

The Call of the Disciples

DSC00036 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ Then they left their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Mark’s account of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee is as succinct as his account of his baptism and temptation. John has been arrested. Not a good time, in human thinking, to begin a ministry. Herod Antipas, arresting John and ready to behead him, rules in Galilee. Better wait, we would say.

But this is God’s time, different from ours. The Good News is God’s message, not ours. Jesus does not expand on what God’s Kingdom is but one thing we know– God will act according to his plan, not ours. One thing we know: it is at hand now, and Jesus comes to fulfill it. “Your will be done,” Jesus taught in the Our Father. We’re asking for something bigger than what we think God’s will is.

The call of the four fisherman, Peter, Andrew, James and John occurs by the Sea of Galilee. For the Jews the sea, like the wilderness, was a dangerous place; storms unsettled it; unpredictable winds made it fearful. To them, even an inland body of water twelve miles long and six miles wide was something to be wary of. Still, they made a living on it, but being called by God by the sea was a dangerous sign.

Jesus says simply, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark’s Gospel sees the four fishermen having a lot to learn to be fishers of men. They’re slow to understand his call. Later on, twelve would be called, (Mark 3,13-19), still later their ministry would be explained. (Mark 6,7-13)

The learning never stops. This was not something you learn in a book, or by yourself. “I will make you fishers of men,” Jesus said. “Come away by yourselves and rest awhile,” he said to his disciples who returned to him with reports of all they had done. (Mark 6,30ff) Every disciple learns what the call means from him and for her.

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5th Sunday C Deep Waters

 

To listen to the audio for today’s homily, select the audio file below:

I usually go out fishing a couple of times a year at the Jersey Shore with a friend of mine who has a boat equipped with radar that tracks fish. I notice, though, he also has some old maps he has marked where the fish usually are; he also looks around to check where the party boats are. They’re the fishermen who are out there day after day and night after night. They make their living off the sea and so if they aren’t catching anything, nobody is.

In our gospel, Peter and his friends are professional fishermen, night and day, everyday fishermen. If they don’t know the waters, nobody does. One recent archeological investigation on the Sea of Galilee, at Magdala on its northwestern shore, close to Capernaum where Peter docked his boats, seems to confirm that at the time of Jesus, the fishing industry in Galilee was quite sophisticated. They had elaborate methods for storing and preserving fish in order to bring them to market at the right time. They had developed a dark blue netting for night fishing. They were good at it.

And so, when Peter tells Jesus, “We have worked hard all night and caught nothing,” he’s a professional talking. Experience is behind him; reason and human skill are behind him. “But at your word I will lower the nets.” Because he accepts the word of Jesus he gets a reward bigger than he could ever expect– a catch so great that their boats were in danger of sinking.

Later on in Mark’s gospel, Jesus asks Peter: “Who do people say I am?” “You are the Messiah,” Peter answers. But when Jesus goes on to say he will be arrested and put to death and rise again, Peter doesn’t want to hear it. That’s not reasonable. “Don’t think about that,” he says. And Jesus calls him Satan. “You’re not thinking like God, you’re thinking like human beings do.”

As he did on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asks Peter to go beyond human thinking. When God speaks and reveals things we have to go beyond our reasonableness and calculations.

Peter is not the only one who has to go beyond human thinking. We’re also asked to do that too, if we want to be people of faith. In our 2nd reading today the Apostle Paul asks us to believe.

“Brothers and sisters,

I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received:

that Christ died for our sins

in accordance with the Scriptures;

that he was buried;

that he was raised on the third day

in accordance with the Scriptures;

that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

Last of all, as to one abnormally born,

he appeared to me, and

so we preach and so you believed.”

Paul wants his hearers to believe in God, the creator of this world. This world did not just happen. Jesus Christ is God’s Son, born of Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and rose again.

We’re called to follow him, to be with him, to be his companions, his friends, to listen to his words, to hope in his promises, to love others as he has loved us.

“Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch,” That’s what we do when we come to Mass. This is the deep water where we lower our nets to catch those graces God wishes to give us. Surprising graces, more than we imagine, greater than we could expect. This is the sea where believers are blessed.