THEME: MAKING FISHERS OF MEN
You are invited to a monthly day of recollection, organised by the Southcreek Centre.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
Meditation: By Father Elo.
SPIRITUAL READING: 03:55pm
Friends of God: Chapter 16.
That all may be saved.
Our Christian vocation, this calling which Our Lord makes to each of us personally, leads us to become identified with him. But we should not forget that he came on earth to redeem everyone, because ‘he wishes all men to be saved’. There is not a single soul in whom Christ is not interested. Each soul has cost him the price of his Blood.
As I think about these truths, there comes to mind a conversation which took place between the apostles and the Master shortly before the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. A great multitude had followed Jesus. Our Lord looked up and said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these to eat?’ Philip made a rapid calculation and answered: ‘Two hundred silver pieces would not buy enough bread for them, even to give each a little.’ They didn’t have that kind of money; what they could find was paltry in comparison. ‘One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him: There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fishes; but what is that among so many?’
We want to follow Our Lord. We are anxious to spread his Word. From a human point of view, it’s only natural that we should ask ourselves: who are we, for so many people? Compared with the total population of the world, even though there are millions of us, we are few in number. We must therefore see ourselves as a tiny measure of yeast, prepared and ready to do good to the whole of mankind, remembering the words of the Apostle: ‘a little leaven is enough to leaven all the dough’, transforming it completely. We have to learn to become that yeast, that leaven, and so modify and transform the multitude.
Is yeast, by its nature, better than dough? No. But it is what makes the dough rise and become good and nourishing food.
Reflect a moment, even if only in general terms, on the way yeast works in the making of bread — that simple, staple food which is available to everyone. In many places (you yourselves may have seen it done) the baking process is like a real ceremonial, ending up with a splendid product that you can almost taste with your eyes.
They start with good flour, of top quality if possible. Then the dough is worked in the kneading-trough and the yeast is mixed in. It is a long and patient job. The dough must now be left to rest; this is essential for the leaven to do its work and make the dough rise.
Meanwhile, the oven is made ready, its temperature rising as the logs of wood burn bright. The risen dough is placed in the glowing oven and turns into high quality bread, wonderfully light and fresh. This result would never have been possible had it not been for the small amount of leaven, which dissolved and disappeared among the other ingredients, working effectively and passing unnoticed.
If we pray and meditate on these words of St Paul, we will realise that we have no alternative but to work, in the service of all souls. Anything else would be selfishness. If we look at ourselves humbly, we will see clearly that, in addition to his gift of faith, Our Lord has also granted us a number of talents and qualities. None of us has been mass-produced. Our Father has created us one by one and shared out different goods among his children. It is up to us to use these talents, these qualities, in the service of all men. We are called to use the gifts God has given us as instruments to help others discover Christ.
Please don’t think that the desire to help others is in the nature of an extra, a lace trimming for our ordinary lives as Christians. If leaven is not used for fermenting, it rots. There are two ways leaven can disappear, either by giving life to dough, or by being wasted, a perfect tribute to selfishness and barrenness. We are not doing Jesus a favour when we make him known to others: ‘When I preach the gospel, I take no credit for that; I act under constraint,’ obliged by Jesus’ command; ‘it would go hard with me indeed if I did not preach the Gospel.’
‘Behold, I will send many fishermen, says the Lord, and I will catch those fishes.’ That is his way of explaining the great task we have before us: we must become fishermen. The world is often compared, in conversation or in books, with the sea. It is a good comparison, for in our lives, just as in the sea, there are quiet times and stormy seasons, periods of calm and gusts of strong wind. One often finds souls swimming in difficult waters, in the midst of heavy waves. They travel through stormy weather, their journey one sad rush, despite their apparently cheerful expressions and their boisterousness. Their bursts of laughter are a cover for their discouragement and ill-temper. Their lives are bereft of charity and understanding. Men, like fish, devour each other.
Our task as children of God is to get all men to enter, freely, into the divine net; to get them to love each other. If we are Christians, we must seek to become fishermen like those described by the prophet Jeremiah with a metaphor which Jesus also often used: ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men’, he says to Peter and Andrew.
Let us accompany Our Lord as he goes about his divine task of fishing. We find Jesus by the Lake of Genesareth, with the crowds pressing upon him, eager ‘to hear the word of God’. Just as they do today! Can’t you see? They want to hear God’s message, even though outwardly they may not show it. Some perhaps have forgotten Christ’s teachings. Others, through no fault of their own, have never known them and they think that religion is something odd. But of this we can be sure, that in every man’s life there comes a time sooner or later when his soul draws the line. He has had enough of the usual explanations. The lies of the false prophets no longer satisfy. Even though they may not admit it at the time, such people are longing to quench their thirst with the teachings of Our Lord.
Let us follow St Luke’s description. ‘At this he saw two boats moored by the lake, whose fishermen had gone ashore, and were washing their nets. And he went on board one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to stand off a little from the land; and so, sitting down, he began to teach the multitudes from the boat.’ When he had finished his catechising, he told Simon: ‘Put out into the deep, and lower your nets for a catch.’ Christ is the master of this boat. He it is that prepares the fishing. It is for this that he has come into the world, to do all he can so that his brothers may find the way to glory and to the love of the Father. It is not we who have invented the Christian apostolate. If anything, we get in its way, through our clumsiness and lack of faith.
‘Simon answered him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and caught nothing.’ A reasonable enough reply. The night hours were their normal time for fishing, and this time the catch had yielded nothing. What was the point of fishing by day? But Peter has faith: ‘nevertheless, at your word I will let down the net.’ He decides to act on Christ’s suggestion. He undertakes to work relying entirely on the Word of Our Lord. And what happened? ‘When they had done this, they took a great quantity of fish, so that the net was near breaking, and they must needs beckon to their partners who were in the other boat to come and help them. When these came, they filled both boats, so that they were ready to sink.’
When Jesus went out to sea with his disciples he was not thinking only about the catch of fishes. And so when Peter falls down at his feet and humbly confesses: ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man,’ Our Lord replies: ‘Do not be afraid; henceforth you shall be a fisher of men.’ In this new task of fishing, all the power and effectiveness of God will also be at hand: the apostles are instruments for the working of great wonders, in spite of their personal shortcomings.
The same is true of us. If we struggle daily to become saints, each of us in his own situation in the world and through his own job or profession, in our ordinary lives, then I assure you that God will make us into instruments that can work miracles and, if necessary, miracles of the most extraordinary kind. We will give sight to the blind. Who could not relate thousands of cases of people, blind almost from the day they were born, recovering their sight and receiving all the splendour of Christ’s light? And others who were deaf, or dumb, who could not hear or pronounce words fitting to God’s children… Their senses have been purified and now they listen and speak as men, not animals. In nomine Iesu! In the name of Jesus his Apostles enable the cripple to move and walk, when previously he had been incapable of doing anything useful; and that other lazy character, who knew his duties but didn’t fulfil them… In the Lord’s name, surge et ambula, rise up and walk.
Another man was dead, rotting, smelling like a corpse: he hears God’s voice, as in the miracle of the son of the widow at Naim: ‘Young man, I say to you, rise up.’ We will work miracles like Christ did, like the first apostles did. Maybe you yourself, and I, have benefited from such wonders. Perhaps we were blind, or deaf, or paralysed; perhaps we had the stench of death, and the word of Our Lord has lifted us up from our abject state. If we love Christ, if we follow him sincerely, if we stop seeking ourselves and seek him alone, then in his name we will be able to give to others, freely, what we have freely received.