Third Sunday of OT year A 2017:
For some reason, I’ve never been much in to fishing. Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh fish. I especially like a good blue gill fish fry. But, fishing has never been one of my past times. I think it’s the whole hook thing with the worm and then if you catch a fish, you have a gross fish on your line and you have to deal with it… But, that doesn’t stop people from trying to talk me into fishing. Maybe it seems like I have the fishermen’s disposition. John Offerle, our business manager, is always trying to talk me into ice fishing. Sorry John, no such luck. I remember when I was home one summer from seminary, my brother even tried to talk me into fishing, and he got all theological. “Hey Jake, let’s go fishing.” I said, no thanks. He responded, “as a priest you need to be a fisher of men, so you better figure out how to fish.” I thought that was a good try, but I still wasn’t interested.
Fishers of Men. That’s what Jesus called the disciples. He called them to be his followers, but also to be the ones that would help him carry out his own mission as being a fisherman. Listen again to the message of Jesus, it has two parts: come follow me, I will make you fishers.
But, it’s important for us to see this story as our story too. Sure, this event took place a long time ago, when Jesus spoke to some specific people. But, Jesus has never stopped calling people to follow him. He approaches us all and asks us the same question: come follow me. Hopefully every one of us here has heard this call from Jesus, the call to follow him. I mean, isn’t that why we are here at Mass? We have heard his voice, we believe he is the son of God and we want to be his followers, his disciples. But, don’t forget about the second part of the message: I will make you fishers. You see, it’s important to realize that we are not only called to follow Jesus, we are also called to attract more people to follow Jesus as well. I mean, think about how you heard about Jesus for the first time: maybe your parents, a teacher, a friend, a priest, whatever, someone was a fishermen who helped to pull you into Jesus. Now it’s our turn.
So, let’s use the fisherman analogy to help us see how we are supposed to attract people to Jesus. Even though I’m not a fisherman myself, I think I know some of the basics. First, you have to get near the fish. No matter how hard you try, you won’t catch a fish in the parking lot. Why? There are no fish out there. Rather, you have to get out to the streams, the lakes, the oceans. Likewise, we won’t be able to attract new people to Christ if we are not out there in the public. Now, I know this makes many of us nervous. We might not feel comfortable telling other people about our faith out in the world. But, the best thing we can do is to live our Christian calling with joy and enthusiasm. Then if someone asks why we are so happy, we can just refer them to our faith in Christ. I’m not saying everyone needs to stand on the corner with a bullhorn. But, don’t be afraid to be a Christian out in public.
Number 2, fishermen need good bait. They need something that will attract the fish. Same is true for us. We need something good to say about Jesus, about our faith, about our church. And, as the old saying goes, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. What do you think will be more effective: hey if you don’t believe in Jesus you will go straight to hell; or, hey I don’t know if you believe in Jesus or not, but I do and I believe that he can lead me to everlasting life, which sounds pretty amazing. I can’t imagine that Jesus came off as being harsh or condemning to the apostles today. They left everything for him, it must have been a pretty inspirational encounter.
Finally, after a fisherman catches a fish, he has to take care of it. Now here is where the analogy breaks down a little bit, because we are don’t clean and fry new believers, thanks be to God. But, I do think we have a responsibility to take care of people after we have them hooked on the faith. We should have good follow up, especially with people who are new to the faith. What about new parishioners too? Look around you, are there people you don’t recognize? Why not go up to them and talk to them after mass? Introduce yourself, offer to support them in prayer. A good fisherman takes care of the fish after he catches them. We need to care for each other now that we have been brought to Christ.
So, I don’t see myself getting into the business of fishing. But, all of us are called to be fishers of men and women. Using this analogy, let’s get out there and attract more people to Christ.