Gone Fishing (Third Ordinary)

Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass”. They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed. (Matt 4: 18 – 20)

Fishermen figure prominently in today’s gospel, and the fisher motif has been a favourite with religious artists ever since. Art imitates life, the saying goes, but sometimes, it seems, life imitates art. Morris West’s blockbuster novel, The Shoes of the Fisherman, was published in 1963. The Cold War story revolved around a bishop from a country controlled by the former Soviet Union who is elected pope and must confront a complex geopolitical landscape. Tensions and troubles in China threaten to erupt into a world war involving all the superpowers. After declaring the 1968 film version of the story to be one of his favourite movies, President Richard Nixon visited China in 1972, opening up the once isolated country to East-West dialogue. Then in 1978 the College of Cardinals elected as pope a bishop from a Soviet dominated country – Karl Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, who would become John Paul II.

What does it mean to be “fishers of people”? Might it mean to try to live in such a way as to give others pause, to make them curious as to what it is that gives us our strength, or grace, or generosity, or joy, or whatever our particular spiritual gift might be? When we tend to and nourish our spiritual life, we give people a reason to come a bit closer, to ask us about our faith, and – who knows – perhaps to be captivated by what they find!

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