Recently, I was reading in the gospel of Mark and read the excerpt from Mark 1:14-20. It’s about Jesus walking along the Sea of Galilee and encountering two sets of brothers who fished for a living. Simon and Andrew were actually fishing and James and John were mending nets. Jesus, interestingly, asks them to abandon what they are doing and instead follow him and he will make them “fishers of men.”
I remember thinking that would not have been a very appealing invitation to me because I really don’t like to fish. Oh, I don’t mind if no one baits my hook—if I can just sit serenely there with a pole in my hand and watch the waves bob up and down and listen to the water lapping the shoreline, then fishing is okay but to actually deal with the fish—YUK!
Nevertheless, I searched for some deeper insight into the meaning of these words from Sacred Scripture and came upon some wisdom from a woman named Patricia Sanchez, who holds a masters degree in literature and religion of the Bible from a joint degree program at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York. These were the insights I gleaned. Patricia says there are many good lessons that any disciple might learn from someone who fishes for a living.
Regardless if whether one fishes with a net or a pole, with lures or by chumming the waters, the fisher must go where the fish are and offer them something that will entice them to take the bait. Disciples too can be more effective, when they are willing to be mobile. This may require leaving the comfort of the office or home and church and venture into those public and private places where people live their lives.
Disciples have been entrusted with the “bait” of the good news, which becomes more attractive when coupled with the good example of a gospel driven life.
Fishers work without discriminating as to the worthiness of the fish. There is no sign at the end of a fishing line that says, “Good fish only.” Thus no disciple can have any prejudice when they accept Christ’s invitation to be “fishers of men.”
Fishers do not keep regular hours. Fish do not make appointments, so those who “fish” for them must accommodate their schedules.
Those who fish successfully are persistent. They will bait the hook again and again, cast the line many times and lower the nets for as long as it takes for the fish to come. So as disciples, we must learn to wait for truth to attract.
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Lastly, it is good to remember that even our waiting can have significant value if the one who waits does more than twiddle thumbs or just sits idly at the seashore(ouch). More positive and productive is the fisher, aka disciple, who fills the waiting with prayer and hope and trust that God’s grace can eventually bring sinners and searchers to repentance and faith. Happy fishing!!