Fishing for Souls

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea– for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. Mark 1:14-20.

Mark’s Gospel offers us some unique insights into the Christian life for the third week of Epiphany. After John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus announces the imminence of the kingdom of God, requiring repentance and calling for hope (belief “in the good news”). Mark sets the story on the sea of Galilee, known for sudden storms. The men who made eked out their living fishing on these waters worked very hard, were heavily taxed, and struggled with many of the same day-to-day issues we know so well. I’ve known men like this, and they are not easily moved.

So, Jesus meets two sets of brothers: Simon and Andrew, and James and John (who Jesus later nicknamed the “Sons of Thunder”). He calls to them to follow him, and each of these men leave behind their work, their families and their homes to follow Jesus. As we discussed in the call of Samuel, God has a funny sense of timing, and his message often interrupts us when we’re trying to do something else. Perhaps these men were just ready to hear a message of hope and forgiveness. Perhaps they were ready to hear the message that evil doesn’t win and that there’s another way to live.

I think, however, that this arresting story of the origins of the Church sheds a good deal of light on the kind of man Jesus must have been. He must have been a remarkably compelling figure, this itinerant preacher walking along the Galilee. Mark’s Gospel reports that the decision to follow Jesus occurred “immediately”, suggesting that their hopes for the promised good news overcame their fears and their attachments. The passage also suggests these men felt a sense of urgency, that they couldn’t put off their walk with God any longer or take care of a few little things beforehand. May it be so with us, too.

The Gospel teaches us something important about our path to discipleship. Very few of us will start or travel down this path of conversion alone. Conversion, whether we’re turning away from or turning toward something, is a difficult process, and most of us will need to take a friend, a brother or a sister along for the journey. Jesus called these disciples into a vocation of hope and forgiveness and a relationship with the living God. These two sets of brothers felt impelled to leave behind their ordinary, workaday lives and follow Jesus. May it be so with us, too.

Finally, Scripture teaches us an important lesson about being a disciple. Then and now, following Christ will require that you’re going to have to leave some things behind. In the case of these men, it was their boats, their nets, their jobs and their families. For some of us, it may be habits, outlooks, destructive relationships, or the fears that bind us to the present moment. The disciples found a way to leave those things behind. May it be so with us, too.

Shabbat shalom,

James R. Dennis, O.P.

© 2012 James R. Dennis

16 responses to “Fishing for Souls

  1. Great post. When I first accepted Christ as my Savior I too began to leave things behind. The most amazing part was that no one told me what I needed to change or what behaviors were not pleasing to God…it was His voice within my heart that made me want to be better. I am so thankful I listened to His voice. And it is a blessing to listen to His voice through you today.

    • Thank you, Susan….

      I think leaving some things behind is a very hard part of our Christian walk. It can be a great challenge, and leaning on each other is a significant part of the journey.

      Have a great Sabbath,

      Br. James

  2. Thank you for this special message. I feel touched by its blessing

  3. I agree. May it be so with us.

  4. A wonderful post for the beginning of the year!

  5. leaving what’s behind and reaching for what’s ahead, with Jesus leading. lovely…

  6. apocalypseicons

    I think it was well they left their angling jobs behind as, in the wonderful mosaic above, there is a very pesky looking fish under the boat.
    After an intense weekend retreat I am left feeling that I have not so much left something behind but Jesus has reached in, pulled it out and made me face it before I could let it go. It was not something I expected to come up but all is well subsequently.

    • Constantina,

      I’m glad your retreat was intense, and hope you find some time to decompress. I’m glad you’re at peace with what happened there. We do struggle so, don’t we? I know, I’m a struggler from way back. Give yourself some time, my friend.


      Br. James

  7. Good words, James. Thank you. You make an important point that we each have to make the journey but we do so in community and relationship with others. I think we need to recover an understanding of and emphasis on our faith as personal but not individualistic.

    Peace, Mike+

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