THE FISHERMAN IS ALSO THE BAIT
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
My dear encountered couples:
We have heard this passage many times. Jesus tells the people, “Reform your lives! The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And then he starts looking around for people to help him with the establishment of that kingdom. The first ones he invites to help him are Peter and his brother Andrew, James and his brother John. He tells them, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.” They didn’t know it but they were going to have the work of their lives cut out for them - by the Son of God Himself.
But the apostles are no longer around. It is sort of like fishing a river that never runs out of fish. The fishing never stops, but those who do the fishing change over the years. The apostles were the first fishermen for the Church, now the rod and reel have been passed on to us. We are now the fishermen and women. All of us, young and old, are to take the words of Jesus personally. Jesus is talking to us: “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men.”
There are many ways to fish. Some people fish with a state of the art rod and reel, some with a stick and a piece of string. And there are those who use a net or spear. Some people fish from a boat, some from the shore, others wade right into the water and fish from the middle of the stream. Some use live bait, others artificial, some fish at night, others in the daylight. Then there are those who never really get serious about their fishing at all; they just want to have a good excuse to read a book or take a nap.
During the course of a Sunday School class, the teacher called on the pupils to recite some parables. “Do you know the parables, Johnny?” she asked one of them.
“Yes, ma’am.”“Well, I want you to tell us about the one you like best.” “That’s easy, ma’am. I like the one where somebody loafs and fishes.”
I’m afraid that is what too many of us Catholics might be doing in regard to this fishing that Christ invites us all to do; many of us might be doing more loafing than fishing. Maybe that is because many Catholics feel they are not qualified to help with bringing people into the Church. But actually every Catholic, every Christian has the capability to help bring people into the Church whether they have been formally educated in religion or not. And that is by just letting the natural and supernatural goodness already in us come forth.
As I have pointed out that there are many ways to fish for real fish, there are even more ways to fish for people. No two of us being exactly the same, we will therefore each fish differently, not only for fish but for people, who are also each different. You with your personality can reach and touch certain people that I cannot. I, with my personality, can reach people you are unable to reach.
Each of us has something in us that touches the hearts of certain other people, whom no one else seems to have much of an effect upon. There are human fish in the stream that maybe only you can bring home to Christ, there are people maybe only I can bring to him.
Jesus wants everybody in his kingdom; that job will take the work of all of us. There are people who no priest or nun can influence, only you can. There are people who may never find Christ unless you lead them to him. If you decide to loaf more than fish, some might slip past you and go down the stream of life never knowing Christ. Wouldn’t that be terrible!
Everybody was not an apostle in the early days of the Church. Only one person was the pope, only certain designated people were bishops and priests and deacons. A few others were probably what we might consider energized like the bunny that never stops, they were constantly running around trying to convert everybody. But my guess is, based on what I see as human nature, most converts to Christianity probably went on living the same lives in the same houses and working at the same jobs as before they converted. They still had to spend most of their time working hard to earn a living and pay the bills. The only difference, but an essential difference, was now they were filled with faith, hope, and love, which gave meaning to what before were ordinary, maybe drab lives.
Their family, their work, their daily routine took on value and purpose above and beyond anything earthly. Everything, pleasant and unpleasant, could now benefit them in the here and hereafter. Death was no longer the end, it would be the beginning of all they hoped and dreamed for. God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love moved them to upgrade their principles and standards, it moved them to evaluate life in the ways of Christ. No longer were they the center of their own lives, it was God, who then moved them to treat others kindly. “See how they love one another.” was not just something said about them, it was what captured the hearts of others and brought them into the Church. The early Christians were not only fishermen for souls; they let themselves be the bait.
Now lets face it! There are days when the last thing we feel like doing is loving, when we find it very hard to even be civil to people. We are tired, we are pressured, we are at our nerves’ end, we just feel drained and want to be left alone. Don’t you think the early Christians had days like that? That the apostles had days like that? Those are actually some of our best days. They keep us humble, reminding us we can’t do anything without God.
Something to be aware of: The human body has a normal cycle of ups and downs - in energy, in enthusiasm, in thinking ability, in feelings. God made us that way. So don’t give up on yourself when some days you feel more like loafing than fishing. Christ understands. That is when we are being invited to rest in him, to let him help us do the best we can, even if we feel halfhearted in the doing of it. All has a purpose, even your bad hair days.
“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” You are not only to be a fisherman, you are also to be the bait that catches people for Christ.