We are kicking off a brief three-week series all about fishing. And as we begin I should acknowledge, for purposes of transparency, I have never been fishing in my life. And I have absolutely no interest in ever giving it a try. So it might seem like a funny topic to propose.
But, when Jesus called the first apostles, who were fishermen, he didn’t promise to make them smarter, healthier or wealthier; He didn’t promise to make them more popular or better looking. Interestingly, Jesus didn’t even promise the apostles that if they followed him that he would make them holier.
Jesus told his first followers that if they followed him, they would become fishers of men. He would teach them how to use the same skill, patience and determination they used as professional fisherman to bring people into a relationship with him.
It is an interesting fact that of Jesus’ twelve apostles were fishermen. Rather than choosing religious professionals or scholars and theologians to carry on his mission Jesus chose hardworking uneducated blue-collar guys. Perhaps, in part, to show, that what he was asking them to do, anybody can do too.
So the metaphor of fishing is aptly applied to our efforts to share our faith in Christ. Just as the Church has traditionally been sometimes compared to a boat (and why, the front of our new building suggests the bow of a ship).
Of course we’re talking about evangelization, not a word historically given a lot of play in the average Catholic parish.
Evangelization was the province of missionaries, who devoted the whole of their lives to selfless and sometimes heroic service, spreading the Gospel. Once a year or so, one of them would visit to raise money for their mission, telling exotic tales of far away adventures (and perhaps unintentionally underscoring that the work of evangelization belongs to very special class of people).
Evangelization doesn’t require some kind of lifetime commitment, or even a change in life style. Our mission field isn’t only on the other side of the planet; it is in our own backyard. It is in our workplaces, our schools, in our own families. We have opportunities all around us, all the time, to bring people to Christ.
Unfortunately, since we don’t have a history of it, we tend to think of sharing our faith, to the extent that we think of it at all, as unnecessary, impolite, inappropriate.
Over the course of this series, we’re underscoring two truths:
First, the most loving way to love others is to share Christ with them.
Second, sharing our faith is a crucial part of growing deeper in our faith.
That’s why followers fish.