Be Fishers of People
Deacon Richard Haber January 21, 2018
Good morning. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” And so, Jesus begins his mission. “The time is fulfilled” because Jesus has come among us with the blueprint, God’s plan for us. He, in Himself, brings the kingdom of God. We are invited to participate in God’s plan by re-orienting our lives, making a 180 degree turn and believing in the good news. The good news is Jesus. He is the one whom all the prophets spoke about ending with John the Baptist’s, “One mightier than I is coming after me…he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Jesus’ kingdom is the polar opposite of what the Israelites understood as a kingdom. Herod was a king and he announced it by building great monuments. Herod the great rebuilt the temple of Jerusalem; he constructed impressive monuments over the graves of the patriarchs. He built the city of Caesarea Maritima to impress his patron, Augustus Caesar. Jesus built no monuments of stone. Jesus comes humbly and lives among the dispossessed, the poor and the outcasts.
In this morning’s Gospel, He sets about putting his team together. Now if you or I were beginning such a project as building a kingdom, we’d probably choose the best candidates to be on the team. Educated, sophisticated people who know how to network and get things done. It might be a little cutthroat as we eliminate certain candidates because they don’t ‘fit’ but we’d justify our choices because our goal is lofty: we’re building an empire here. Think Amazon or Google. What does Jesus do? He walks along the seashore and calls some simple fishermen, Simon and Andrew, the sons of Zebedee, James and John. The sons of Zebedee we will recall wanted the highest place on the team. These were simple people, uneducated and definitely in the lower SES-social-economic strata. Jesus simply said to them, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” They dropped everything and followed him without asking the simplest of questions: “Who are you? What do you want us for? What’s in it for us?” Mark’s Gospel is silent and simply tells us that they followed him. “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.” They really didn’t know what they were in for although there was an ominous beginning to this Gospel: “After John was arrested” by that fox, Herod. Jesus’ mission would stir up opposition from Herod and other leaders of the people. These first apostles repented, i.e. turned their lives around in order to follow Jesus. As we follow these first disciples, we see a group of disciples who don’t understand who Jesus is, who don’t understand what he means by his kingdom, who are cowardly, ambitious and who ultimately betray the one who called them. As one commentator puts it:
“In Mark’s Gospel we see how this early decision needs to be reaffirmed and even corrected time and again. At Caesera Philippi, Simon affirms his faith in Jesus, but not in his faith in Jesus as the suffering Messiah—that will take a lifetime. On the mount of transfiguration Peter knows how good it is to be with Jesus but forgets that the real task is to follow Jesus—for a lifetime. In the courtyard warming himself before the fire , Peter threatens to give up a lifetime of fidelity for a moment of fear. AT the very end, when Jesus is on the cross, Peter, Andrew, and James are nowhere to be found. Even then God does not count that moment as the final word: now Jesus will go before them—for a lifetime.”
It is only after his death and resurrection do they begin to comprehend. It is only after being baptized with the ‘Holy Spirit’ that “their eyes were opened” as they walked on the road away from Jerusalem on their way to Emmaus. It is then that this first group of disciples begins to preach and live the K. of God which is already among us but not yet completed because we have a role to play in its completion.
OK Deacon Rick what’s all this have to do with us you’re asking? We are today’s disciples. We have been called. We too have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and therefore commissioned to be “fishers of people.” Maybe we’re reluctant…I don’t know any theology, I am too shy, I reserve my religion for Sundays and so on. Jonah, in our First Reading, was also reluctant to carry out God’s wishes. He, in fact, ran the other way towards Tarsish. I’m not delivering that kind of message about repentance and especially not to pagans like the Ninevites! We know what happened and Jonah carried out God’s command to tell the people of Nineveh to repent or be destroyed. And although Jonah would have preferred that they were destroyed since they were pagans, God had other plans and the people of Nineveh did turn their lives around and won favour with God. There’s an old Jewish proverb we can apply to Jonah-and ourselves-which goes like this... ‘” whenever someone says, ‘I have a plan’, God laughs.”
The fact that the pagans of Nineveh were spared shows us that God’s Kingdom includes all people even those who are not members of our own tribe. We are all called to bring a message of hope to all whom we encounter in our ordinary, daily lives. Sometimes our attempts will be ridiculed or rejected and we will encounter opposition. We are not to give up but to continue to preach the good news of God’s love for us. What does that look like in practice?
“You say: ‘But how can is serve the Lord?’ I’m not important. What I do is common and of little consequence. Anyone can do what I do.
But I say to you, ‘Every time you meet another human being you have the opportunity. It’s a chance at holiness. For you will do one of two things, then. Either you will build her up, or you will tear her down. Either you will acknowledge that he is, or you will make him sorry that he is—sorry at least, that he is there, in front of you. You will create, or you will destroy. And the things you dignify or deny are God’s own property. They are made, each of them, in his own image.
There are no useless, minor meetings. There are no dead-end jobs. There are no pointless lives…Turn your face truly to the human before you and let her, for one moment shine. Think him important and then he will suspect that he is fashioned of God. How do you greet the stranger, or do you greet them? How do you say hello, or do you say hello? Do you burden your neighbour or your child or your spouse with your crabbiness, anger or gloom? Demolition! Or do you look them in the eye and grant them peace.”
-adapted from The Ragman
Let us pray that the grace of our baptism continues to unfold in our lives as we answer Jesus’ call to each one of us, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.”