This picture was taken at the Sea of Galilee, November 2008

There seems to be nothing in common with us and the first disciples. In comparison to them, we are more different than similar, more distinct than related, more atypical than alike. Not one among us here would list his or her occupation as a fisherman. Some of us may love to fish. Some of us like fish. And some of us may like to fish stories.

Here is a story we all know. When Jesus began His ministry, He chose men who will help Him in fulfilling his mission, assist him in revealing life’s meaning and support him in sharing his message. In order to do all these tasks, Jesus is telling us what we all need: patience. Patience is the greatest virtue of every fisherman.

This is a lesson that we need to remember. For us to fulfill our mission in life, whatever that may be, for us to find our meaning in life, whether we find it or not, and for us to share the message of salvation, we need to be patient. The first characteristic of love, according to St. Paul, is patience.

The second reason why I think Jesus chose fishermen to be His first disciples is that He knows how best to spread the news. In order to let people know about His rising from the dead, He could have used the following: the telephone or the television. But they were not yet invented then. So he had to resort to the third and best choice, that is to tell a woman. He told Mary Magdalene.

It does not stop there. He also had to tell it to fishermen because fishermen love to talk about their work. Fishermen love to tell stories.

Two fishermen were telling stories about the different places they had fished, the kind of tackle used, the best bait, and finally about some of the fish they had caught. One of them said, “You know I caught a 300-pound salmon just last week.” The other man listened attentively and admitted he had never caught anything quite that big.

However, he told about the time his hook snagged a lantern from the depths of a lake. The lantern carried a tag proving it was lost back during the Civil War. But the strangest thing of all was the fact that it was a waterproof lantern and the light was still lit.

For a long time the first man said nothing. Then he took one long deep breath. "I'll tell you what I'll do," he said slowly. "I'll take 200 pounds off my fish, if you'll put out the light in your lantern."

Jesus is telling us that if we can believe the stories of fishermen, which can sometimes border on the unbelievable, then we rise above the level of trust and confidence. When the people heard what the fishermen were saying, they believed. They began to have faith in Jesus. They found their stories to be true because these fishermen expressed God’s message in the way they lived and in the manner they died.

The glaring reality was right there. The carpenter from Nazareth asked them to follow Him and they did. They left everything behind. They left their fishing boats, their livelihood and their homes. They left their families and their loved ones. Their response to the call of Jesus had a commitment and finality to it.

In order to really follow Jesus we do have to leave something or somebody behind. And it is not temporary, but for good. It may not mean that we have to leave our present jobs, our homes or our families though for some people, it might. But, it definitely means that we have to leave behind most of the things we treasure, some of the people we love, all the sins we like.

As he called his first disciples, Jesus is also calling you and me to help him, because He needs our help for His Church and His message. Jesus is calling you and me because He wants us to be part of His love and part of His family. Jesus is calling us together because we were meant to be together. It is not just a call to mission and service. It is also a call to a relationship with Him among us.

If Christ is calling us, we need to respond. Interruptions are always points of opportunity and moments of grace. When Jesus interrupts our lives, just as He interrupted the lives of these fishermen, He is calling us for something better. When He barges into our homes and intrudes upon our hearts, He wants us to know that He wants us.

We may not be tellers of the news, we may not be sharers of the Good News, but we all need to answer God calling us. There is a need to respond to His call to forgiveness, to service, and to love. And when we do respond, then we have something in common with the first disciples.

25 January 2009

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