He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).
Today’s Gospel account recalls Jesus calling of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. An interesting contextual point about this recollection is that Jesus was the one doing the calling. Spiritual teachers were common during the time of Jesus within and without of Judaism. What was common in those accounts were that the disciples came to the master. It was rarer that the master would search out and call his followers.
Another point to observe is that Jesus met the brothers in the midst of their everyday activities of fishing. Jesus came to them as they were working. The encounter with Jesus was not on some isolated mountain top, it was not at a gathering revival, nor at the temple or synagogue. Jesus met them in the midst of Simon and Andrew casting their nets and James and John mending theirs.
A third point from this short account is that Jesus immediately followed up his invitation to Simon and Andrew to come after him with the insistence that they will be fishers of people. They are not entering their new apprenticeship with Jesus having any false notion that they will wait for others to come to them. They will travel out of their comfort zones, literally, leaving their fishing businesses, their security, and trusting in Jesus as they learn about and share the Good News that the kingdom of God is at hand.
The three points above apply directly to us as well. Jesus invites us. We just need to be open to receiving the invitation and saying yes as Simon, Andrew, James, and John had done. Jesus meets us in our everyday moments. He encounters us in our workplace, among our interactions with family and friends, in our class and dorm rooms, as well as in our activities and leisure, and in our conflicts, struggles, and suffering. Jesus often meets us in those unprepared for interruptions we experience. Jesus certainly meets us in our prayer, but if we have the desire to pray it is because he has already placed it there. Also, our time of prayer helps us slow down and become aware of his presence in our life, so that when we leave our times of prayer and worship, we will be more able to see him in the midst of our daily activities.
Finally, Jesus calls us to share what we have experienced and learned from our encounter. No matter how small. When we reach out in faith the Holy Spirit will provide the means. We will make mistakes, we will not be perfect, but if we are humble, we will learn and grow as his disciples. Remember who he called? Peter, Andrew, James, and John. There are four Gospels full of accounts of their false starts, gaffes, and “Oops”. We grow and learn by doing. As we crawl, we will soon learn to walk, as we walk we will soon learn to run, and as we run, we will soon learn to fly!
Jesus invites us to participate in his life. May we be thankful for the gift of his life that he gives us and may we live our life and be open for opportunities to share our faith by accompanying those in our realm of influence through the normal means of interaction we have. Again, remembering first and foremost to do so in a way that respects the dignity of each person we encounter. We are to resist imposing and be open to inviting.
One of the reasons that this time last year, the cause for the canonization was promoted for Nicholas Black Elk (ca. 1866-1950), an Oglala Lakota, holy man, best known from John Neihardt’s work, Black Elk Speaks, was that he, like St Andrew whose feast we celebrate today, said yes to the invitation to follow Jesus. Black Elk was baptized in 1904, on the feast day of St. Nicholas, taking his name. He continued to practice his Lakota ways as well as becoming a catechist, and under his invitation and guidance, over 400 people came to believe in Jesus.
Let us say yes to Jesus’ invitation to come and follow him, and become fishers of people! St Andrew pray for us, Servant of God Nicholas Black Elk pray for us.
Photo: Source Marquette University Catholic Mission Archives. Nicholas Black Elk catechizing with the “Two Roads Map” the children of Broken Nose.