Our Nets and Fathers

Fishing on the sea with sun setting behind

It’s easy to recall our favourite bible story but perhaps not so easy to say what our least favourite is!  This might be because the narrative makes us feel uncomfortable about how we are leading our lives – in contrast with what the reading advises in order for us to better follow Jesus.

For example, a person who easily falls out with others or doesn’t speak to family members and friends for years, or someone who holds grudges, may identify with the stubbornness in the “good” son and find the parable of the prodigal son uncomfortable to hear.  Or for a person who is pre-occupied and self-absorbed, not really caring what’s happening to their neighbours, the story of the Good Samaritan may not make for easy listening because they identify with those who walked by on the other side of the road.  Or if someone suffers from jealousy, impatience, selfishness, boastfulness or conceit etc, then St. Paul’s great reflection on love could be a real challenge (1 Cor 12:31–13:13).

God’s word not only gives us consolation but it can also challenge us, make uncomfortable demands of us and ask us to make substantial changes to the way we think or act.  Is there any bible story or quote that unsettles us at the moment?  If so, maybe God is working through that story, telling us something that we need to hear at this time in our lives for our own good and the good of those around us.

Perhaps one of the most difficult challenges arises in this Sunday’s gospel, when Jesus asks some fishermen to leave everything, their nets, their fathers and follow Him and He will make them “fishers of men”.  The rapid response to our Lord’s simple invitation leaves us with a challenge and so this may well be one of our uncomfortable bible stories! By dropping their nets, basically their income source, they changed their vocation in an instant from being fishermen to being “fishers of men”.  This does not mean fishers of wealth or fame, fishing into our pockets like scammers and rip-off merchants do today!  Rather it means that from now on they will fish for and catch men’s souls for Christ through their teaching and help for conversion.

From the unquestioning response that Simon, Andrew, James & John gave to the Lord’s invitation, we see faith and trust in action.  So how might Jesus be calling us?  The complexity of our work, family and social commitments may make it difficult to physically leave our families and travel to spread the Word (although some do!).  But by virtue of our baptism we join the Christian fold and as such we can be called as laity into various church vocations and ministries. We heard from one this weekend at Mass (SVP appeal) and there will be many more.  Are we ready to answer the call?

Today’s gospel may well be one of those uncomfortable bible stories for us as we try to answer the call but feel compelled to still hold on to some of our “nets” and “fathers”. For us, are our “nets” and “fathers” those weaknesses and vices like those mentioned above?  The call is perhaps more about taking up the cross daily and truly following Jesus’ teaching in our lives (Matt. 16:24; Mark 3:34; Luke 9:23).  The call of these four apostles reminds us of the need for us to consciously let go of our old ways, our “nets” and “fathers”, resolutely embracing and following new ways (Isaiah 43:18-19).  If you hear the Lord calling you today, what kind of response will you give?