Friday, January 16, 2015

Fishing out the best in people

St. Matthew 4:12-22
12 Now when Jesus[a] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:
15 “Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.”
17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”[b]
Jesus Calls the First Disciples
18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus calls his first disciples with the very famous one liner “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Jesus here dwells on a very important aspect of discipleship using the profession of four of his principal followers. They were casting their nets and he sees the potential in them and calls them to join him. Interestingly they do so.

What does it mean to say that “I will make you fish for people”? There is an emphasis on the people and the fact that the disciples have to concentrate on them. Here is a call to change the philosophy of using people for business to catching or identifying people to save them. The disciples who were fisher folk went about their business so that they could sell their catch to people. Jesus on the other hand calls them to give up their business of fishing and move on to a spiritual catching of people so that the people will eventually benefit. What before was a benefit for the disciples changes into the benefit of the people.

Who thinks about our good? Society need not think about our benefit and good. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances may not think well about us and wish a better future. On a lighter note the below forward I got shows how people belonging to other professions may not think well and wish well about us.

“The Irony of Life”
The lawyer hopes you get into trouble
The doctor hopes you get sick
The police hopes you become a criminal
The teacher hopes you are born stupid
The landlord hopes you don’t buy a house
The dentist hopes your tooth decays
The mechanic hopes your car breaks down
The coffin maker wants you dead
…Only a thief wishes you “Prosperity in life” and also wishes you have a sound sleep.

The thief obviously has his own reasons for hoping like this. The essence of the forward is that not many people wish us well because they are in the process of wishing themselves well. On the other hand the church tries to wish us well. Whenever the church doesn't, it moves away from the original message of Christianity. This message is the message that Jesus gives Peter, Andrew, James and John. “I will make you fish for people.” This can be translated as “I will make you (teach you) fish for the good in people” and make you identify and hope for the good in them instead of hoping their downfall and in the process making your life out of it.

Jesus is calling each one of us in our own capacities to fish for the good in people and multiply that as a business instead of wishing for bad about people. One cannot completely be businesslike and instead should be Jesus like. May God help us to be fishers of people and be part of God’s valuing of people instead of living out of the downfall of others. Amen.

(Excerpts from a sermon preached in St. Ignatius Church, K.R. Puram, Bangalore on January 11, 2014.The forward used in the sermon was sent to me by Mr. Joe Jacob.)

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