Reflection by Aidan Troy, C.P.
Jesus for his own good reasons chose four fishermen among the 12 who would be the building blocks of his Church. In 1963, Australian novelist, Morris West, wrote ‘The Shoes of the Fisherman”. This was made into a movie of the same name in 1968. Yes, the fisherman image took hold in the popular mind.
Like the image of the Shepherd used by Jesus, there is something humble about being asked to be a fisher of people. For instance, Jesus didn’t favour having a religious police service to safeguard virtue and supress errors. He chose fishermen and asked them to be saviours of people drowning in sin. All know that police are called to be guardians of the peace and of good order in society. But it is not the calling for Apostles that Jesus gave us.
Sadly, at times the pastoral care offered by some successors of the Apostles, has slipped closer to being police enforcers rather than being fisher of people. We are blessed in recent Popes and none more so than in Pope Francis. He likes the ‘smell of the sheep’. I suspect that Pope Francis would not mind having the smell of the fish, or of seaweed coming from his clothes!
Jesus did not ask us to judge others, but to understand, nor to condemn others but to forgive. He did not leave it to us to punish others but heal and comfort. He did ask that we imprison people but to set them free from their pain and suffering. He did not want anyone condemned to death but to help others to live life to the full. He did not ask us to build walls but bridges. He did not ask us to go it alone but to build community.
Jesus is a generous God and did not ask us to hoard but to share and spread around among the needier. Jesus did not say that we must always be right but that we must be seekers of the truth. He never wants us to hate but to love.
Being the fishermen called by Jesus from their actual business of catching fish to seeking out people was a huge change. Jesus had no desire to ‘net’ people by force but to bring people gently to Him. While fish when caught cease to live, people brought to Jesus are offered life and life to the full.
It is interesting that the call of Jesus came after a night on which the Apostles caught nothing. All those times when for Jesus I have not ‘caught’ no one, achieved nothing, are times when I feel that Jesus has abandoned me. He never does. I am ‘fishing’ in the wrong place and no matter how long I keep fishing in that place, the result remains the same – nothing. By prayer and listening to the Master, I am told to try again. At His command I do and with amazing results. Jesus sees what is hidden from me.
Nowhere did Jesus mention to these first Apostle called to be fishers of people using a weighing scales to assess their catches. Jesus calls us not because we are successful, but because we are willing to hear His voice. If only worthy people were called, none of us would be called. Isaiah saw himself being in a “wretched state” and “lost and a man of unclean lips.” Saul of Tarsus hated Jesus and tried to kill His followers before he became Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. In Peter’s own words, “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” He became the first Pope. There is hope for us all.