He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19).
Today’s Gospel account recalls Jesus’ call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. An interesting contextual point is that Jesus was the one doing the calling. Spiritual teachers were common during the time of Jesus within and without Judaism. What was more common in those accounts was that the disciples came to the master. It was a rarer case that the master would search out and call his followers.
Another interesting point is that Jesus met the brothers in the midst of their everyday activities of fishing, in the midst of their work. The encounter with Jesus was not on some isolated mountain top, it was not at a 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 their father’s nets.
The third point from this short account is that Jesus immediately followed his invitation to Simon and Andrew 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. They would leave their current way of life, financial security, and trust 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, suffering, as well as our joys, success, and wonders. Jesus also meets us during our unpreparedness for interruptions, in our times of prayer, and worship. The very desire to pray is the beginning of our awareness of Jesus’ call to follow him. When we take the time to pray we slow down and become more aware of his presence 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 with him. No matter how small. 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 calls us to participate in his life. May we be thankful for this gift and may we be open to opportunities to share our faith by accompanying those in our realm of influence through the normal means of interaction we engage in, remembering first and foremost to do so in a way that respects the dignity of each person we encounter. We are to resist any desire to impose and instead live our practice and engage in dialogue.
Two years ago 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. A key reason 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 while also becoming an effective catechist. 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.