As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mt 4:18-19)
The word fish is most often used as a noun, however its meaning varies greatly as a verb. In the card game “Go Fish” the player who asks incorrectly for a card from his opponent is sent back to the stack to choose a blind card. “To fish” in this case means grabbing at what one cannot see. Fishing can also mean “searching” such as when investigators cast a broad net to gain information and are sometimes accused of going on a “fishing expedition”.
Commercial fishermen today search with more precision using new technology and in fishing grounds where they expect to find fish. Even the rod fisherman seeks reliability by staking out his favorite spot to cast his line.
In the search for His twelve Apostles, Jesus acted with far greater precision and planning. His selection of fishermen was providential in that God formed these men in the wombs of the wives of fishermen just so that the phrase “fishers of men” might reverberate through salvation history. God’s determination to inject fishermen into the divine narrative set the stage for Jesus to perform miracles as vigorous metaphors for the vastness of His kingdom (Lk 5:6), to compare His kingdom to a great net (Mt 13:47) and to teach his disciples to move beyond the shallow out into the deep (Lk 5:4). It is also not coincidental that Our Lord chose to tell this story by lake and by sea (e.g. Mt 13:1 & Lk 5:1).
For this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our parish bulletin cover a fragment of a work by the Sienese medieval master Duccio entitled Appearance of Christ to the Apostles (1311). Duccio was one of those artists who bridged the gap between the Gothic and Renaissance periods. He is historical proof that the rebirth of art in Europe began during the Middle Ages.
This work is an allegory of Christ’s call since only four of the Apostles were known in the Bible to be fishermen. Unseen in the image are Christ who stands on shore and Peter who walks on water toward him. For our purpose we will say that from left to right stand John, Andrew, Matthew and James (we have chosen Matthew as third in this order for his hand over his chest indicating the traditional “who, me?” posture). In any case those standing have lost interest in fishing and are drawn wholly to the Lord who is calling them. For us Thomas is the bent apostle to the far right with only a single grip on the net, but the apostle dressed in red (for the Sacred Blood he will cause to spill) is Judas. He has both hands engaged in his earthly task, inattentive, back turned to Jesus; more engrossed with the price that this great catch will bring.
This image is presented here to remind us that Jesus searches for us; He calls us. Have we listened for the call or have we been inattentive, doubtful or indifferent; or have we been like Peter stepping boldly out into the deep?
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services