Fishers of Men

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This passage is often used for those who have been called to the ministry. It recognizes the calling that the individual is responding to in becoming a minister of God. It recognizes something else, too—the cost of answering the call.

Jesus had just heard of the arrest of John the Baptist and he knew that his ministry must now be taken up in earnest. He was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilea when he noticed Simon (Peter) and his brother, Andrew, ʺcasting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, ‘Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.ʺ (Mt. 4:18-19) We are told that he walked on and found James and John, the sons of Zebedee and said the same to them. They were working with their father, mending nets, when Jesus called them to follow him. All of them left what they were doing, the Gospel tells us—immediately. They did so without hesitation. They left everything, nets, boats, relatives, without question. They followed and they listened and learned from Jesus from that day on. They ʺforgot everything they seemed to possess…ʺ

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I found the following words in one of the homilies that remain from St. Gregory the Great, in the 6th century:
ʺBut someone may say in his silent thoughts, ‘What, and how much, did they give up at the Lord’s command, these fishermen who had almost nothing?’ But in this, dearly beloved, we must weigh up the natural feeling rather than the amount. Someone who has kept back nothing for himself has left much behind; someone who has abandoned everything, no matter how little it is, has left much behind…The kingdom of God has no assessment value put on it, but it is worth everything you have.ʺ

Remember the passage about the rich young man who wanted to know what he must do to gain eternal life, who, when he was told…ʺgo, sell what you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me… he went away sad for he had many possessions.ʺ (Mt. 19:16-22) What those ʺpoorʺ fishermen, Simon and Andrew, James and John, gave up was everything that they ʺseemed to possess.ʺ Somehow, they understood what the rich young man could not; they understood that the kingdom of God is worth everything you have.

And here is our challenge today. Do we understand that there is nothing that we possess that is more important, or more valuable, than our being able to enter eternal life with Christ in the kingdom of God? Nothing that the world values compares to this. Can we respond to Jesus’ call in the same way as Simon Peter, and his brother Andrew did? Can we let go of everything like James and John, the sons of Zebedee, did when we here Jesus call our names and asks us to follow him through the rest of our lives? Oh, let it be so, Lord. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.