Feast of Saint Andrew, Apostle
MT 4: 18-22
I’ve been fishing a few times in my life. When I was little, I went camping with my mom and brother and we did get into a rowboat and actually fish. Mostly what I remember about fishing were the worms that we had to put on the hooks. Not too pleasant to a little girl. There are different types of fishing. One is that image of sitting in a rowboat out in a vast lake with little around. One is fly fishing, which my friend John at John Carroll University says is a whole different ballgame. The other is commercial, the kind where you cast your nets.
Today’s Gospel from Matthew (4:18-22), gives us the story of Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John who are called by Jesus to join Him. They were all fisherman and Jesus came upon them as they were casting their nets. I can imagine all of them, hauling nets and fish out of the sea. And I can imagine their surprise as Jesus asks them to follows Him and be fishers of people. Their father Zebedee must have thoughts they were crazy to get up and leave it all. The Gospel story does not share how they were feeling, what they experienced, what emotions they had. But we can imagine that in the story. Perhaps they were awed, frightened, or even joyous and excited. Perhaps Zebedee was angry or maybe he was thrilled that Jesus called his own people.
As I reflect on the Gospel and on my experience of fishing, I share a few elements. First, if you are in a boat, fishing by yourself or perhaps with friends, one thing you experience is the silence. You have to be quiet when you fish so you don’t scare the fish away. You also have to be patient. It is a good way to pray about Advent – finding some moments of quiet and stillness, and yes perhaps even patience, to reflect on the story of the birth of Jesus and on your part in that story.
Second, when you are fishing, you are experiencing God’s beauty and creation. As Pope Francis points out in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “nothing in the world is indifferent to us” and so as we experience creation, whether it be in fishing or in a walk in a forest, we imagine how we treat creation. This is also a good way to pray during Advent. How do we treat the creation around us and care for it, just as Jesus was born to care for us.
Finally, imagine the enormity of working with a fishing crew and lots of outrageously huge nets. I can imagine myself trying to cast those nets out into the water and bring back the bounty of the sea. But I can also imagine casting my own net wider than that. As Peter, Andrew, James, and John were called to cast their wide nets for people who would be followers of Christ, how do I cast my own net wide enough to include all those people around me? Given the injustices and murder and trouble in today’s world, how am I a welcoming presence to those who are different than me? And in praying about Advent, how can I be like that wide eyed baby Jesus – loving all who I place my eyes upon. How can I see Christ in everyone I encounter – no matter what color, status, religion, or state in life?
As we enter the first week of Advent, let’s think about these reflections and include them in our prayer. How can I find moments of quiet, solitude, and yes patience with myself and others? How do I treat the creation that is around me? And how do I welcome the stranger into my life, just as the disciples welcomed the stranger Jesus?
Sue Chawszczewski is the Director of Campus Ministry.