To be a fisher of men & women … is to create opportunities for people to succeed in life and contribute to society
In our world today, I think most people would agree there’s a greater focus on “myself”: by design, or because we’ve been conditioned by our culture, and it seems normal.
Some might say I’m too harsh; but just try this simple test: I decide many small things each day, I make bigger decisions every week, and very big decisions mostly every year. How often do I consciously say: will my decision improve my wider community?
Many people think about the effect on their family, but is that enough? I say that, because the health of our families is determined by the health of our wider community.
Some might dispute that, by saying money can make us happy & safe: it certainly helps. But when our child is injured or killed by someone “out there” in the community, we realise money cannot save us or protect our families: only a healthy community can do that.
You might be wondering what’s this got to do with the Gospel? “I will make you fishers of men [& women].” Too often we interpret this to mean winning people over to be Catholics, or at least to be Christians. But is that what Jesus Christ did when he came among us?
Jesus didn’t come to convert people to the Jewish faith, but to share the Good News that God loves them. I’m not a Catholic because I’m better than others, but because I believe it helps me hear the Good News more clearly, and calls me to be a part of that Good News.
Through my participation in Catholic life, my life becomes more meaningful, and joyful, because I’m helping others hear the good news (=fisher of men & women). That doesn’t mean it’s easy or ‘happy’ all the time! An elderly couple were asked by the priest at their 50th wedding anniversary: “can you tell the people here how you did it? Did you ever think of divorce?” the woman answered, “Divorce? No! But I did consider murder a few times!”
Husbands and wives are also disciples casting out into the deep! They are Ministers to each other. When we love others, people want to be associated with us, and are not afraid of us.
When we love others, it means we all “share” so that each one has enough.
“Sharing” is not just about what we give away or receive, but how we leave room for others to contribute their gifts and talents for the good of community life. It’s very important we create opportunities for younger people to solve problems, create solutions and “build” things.
The early stage of life is about building and achieving (creates well-being and gives dignity). The later stage of life is about teaching and giving away: that is, if we want to be happy!
Many problems in society can be traced back to people who have lost their dignity and/or feel bad about themselves: either, they carry wounds from the past, or have never had the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their families or wider communities.
I believe, these days, to be a fisher of men (& women), we must help create opportunities for young people to achieve, and be involved in creating solutions for our Community. When we have dignity, we’ll be more open to understanding who we are and what is the purpose of life.
So what stops us from becoming a fisher of men (& women)? Let’s listen to the first reading: Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding in his hand a live coal which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. With this he touched my mouth and said: ‘See now, this has touched your lips, your sin is taken away, your iniquity is purged.’
Before we can become “fishermen” we need healing for any past wounds in our lives. Why are some people so competitive, and try to show others how good they are? Perhaps because they suffered as children; or their Dads never said “I’m proud of you”; or they don’t like themselves or think negatively due to past abuse: they hope success will win admiration.
So, before we can hear God say: “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?” we need to be healed; then, we’ll be free to say: “Here I am, send me.” Healing gives us new sight.
However, healing is often painful (the hot coal) as this story explains:
Man: “I’m in desperate need of help — or I’ll go crazy. We’re living in a single room — my wife, my children and my in-laws. So our nerves are on edge, we yell and scream at one another. The room is a hell.”
Master: “Do you promise to do whatever I tell you?” Man: “I swear I shall do anything.”
Master: “Very well. How many animals do you have?” Man: “A cow, a goat + six chickens.”
Master: “Take them all into the room with you. Then come back after a week.”
Man: The disciple was appalled. But he had promised to obey! So he took the animals in. A week later he came back, a pitiable figure, moaning, “I’m a nervous wreck. The dirt! The stench! The noise! We’re all on the verge of madness!”
Master: “Go back,” said the Master, “and put the animals out.”
Man: The man ran all the way home. And came back the following day, his eyes sparkling with joy: “How sweet life is! The animals are out: home is a Paradise, so quiet & clean and roomy!”
By Gerard Conlan, OMI