A Community of Fishermen (and Women)
The Sunday readings over the past few weeks have touched on the theme of being called. Called to speak on the Lord’s behalf as a prophet, called to preach the good news, called to teach, called to lead the people, and so forth. In years past and today, in all times and places, the Lord calls ordinary people to speak and act on his behalf.
The readings for this coming Sunday, the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, tell of the vision and call of Isaiah, the call of Paul to be an apostle and the call of Peter, James and John. Each of them responded in a similar manner when they realized Who was calling them. “Woe is me, I am doomed!” says Isaiah. “…I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God,” says Paul. “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,” says Peter.
However, the Lord does not leave. Instead, a seraphim takes an ember from the altar of the Lord and purifies the mouth of Isaiah. Paul comes to faith through a period of physical blindness, receiving care from those he had journeyed to persecute. Peter and his companions are comforted, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
Each then responds with willing service. Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord, “Whom shall I send?” and responds “Here I am. … send me.” Paul tells us, “by the grace of God I am what I am and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” Peter, James and John took their boats to the shore, left everything and followed Jesus.
Each of these ordinary people heard the Lord’s call in his own way and within his own everyday world. Their response is remembered today. Unfortunately, we often think that they were some sort of unusual people, extra holy or something – worthy to be called by God. But really, they were just ordinary people. When they heard God’s call, they answered “yes.” They hadn’t gone out of their way looking for God. They didn’t consider themselves particularly prepared or inclined to teach or preach or lead a community. Yet when the Lord asked them to do these things, they did them.
We too are called. We too have something the Lord needs and wants us to do. Each of us is to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit guiding our way and leading us into our worlds to share the good news, to remind others that God loves even those whose lives seem least worthwhile or important. We don’t know when or how it will happen that we will speak the Lord’s words to the person who needs to hear them. That’s OK. It doesn’t matter if we know. All we have to do is keep trusting the Holy Spirit to guide and then live as lovingly as we can.
A woman I’ve known since childhood has an approach that I often remember. She talks of “going fishing” when she finds herself in a position to share her experience of God’s love and care with others. Each of us is called to “go fishing” with the Lord. He’ll make us partners in his mission of fishing for men, women and children to build the kingdom of God together.