Fishing, no boat required.

The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 4:18-23

As we celebrated All Saints day last week we came to what in many ways is the culmination of salvation history up till the present time. The way that God has forcefully worked in the world since the Lord’s ascension is through the Holy Spirit working forcefully in the Church and through His many saints throughout the world. Now according to our Church cycle we find ourselves back at the beginning and so the gospel reading reflects that fact and we find ourselves walking along the shore with the Lord Jesus as He calls His first disciples with these life changing words “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”

From the outset of the ministry of Jesus Christ we are reminded that all of life is about fishing and He is the great fisherman. It is true that no matter where you go or where you look, you will find ideas, ideologies, philosophies, and disciplines all competing for your attention. In a way they are all trying to catch you, the fish. To think otherwise is naïve. Everyone is seeking your attention and hoping that you will accept their world view, their way.

Christianity is different than every religion and philosophy primarily because you are not asked to subscribe to a certain set of teachings in the way that a Muslim is asked to believe that there is one God named Allah who has a prophet named Muhammed. No, in Christianity we are asked to subscribe, not to a set of beliefs nor to a book, but to a person…Jesus of Nazareth. He is what Christianity is all about. Not simply what He has taught or what He has done rather who He claims to be. This is the central, life changing aspect of Christianity….the identity of Jesus.

It says volumes about the disciples that while they had not seen anything miraculous they still left their boats and nets and families and followed Jesus, almost blindly. This kind of obedience did not come because of anything they had seen, it came from faith. St. Paul reminds us in the letter to the Hebrews that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So faith has more to do with what we hope for than what we actually see or know.

I often talk to people who don’t know what to believe in life, they are lost when it comes to religion especially. They seem to think that God should descend just to make a special visit to see them. But God doesn’t play according to our rules. He wants us to seek Him. As the Lord teaches that the kingdom of God is like a man in search of fine pearls. Sure He send us people to guide us and He gives us His inspired words in the Bible and sure we can learn from the teachings of Jesus Christ but we can’t be lazy in life and we certainly can’t be lazy in faith. Faith isn’t automatic.

St. Paul says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for.” So the questions for us are not “what do we know? What have we seen?” The question is “what do we hope for?” My answer to this says so much about me. What do I hope for? We answer this question every moment of every day through our actions and our decisions. It seems that regardless of what the disciples were looking for, they had hope that Jesus Christ would fulfill their desires. They didn’t start with knowledge, they began with hope in things that they couldn’t see. They did not know that the Lord would heal paralyzed men, or bring back children from the dead. They didn’t know that Jesus would feed more than 5,000 men, women and children or that He would cure a man who was born blind. They didn’t know that He would teach them how to pray or how to love others. They didn’t know that they would see Him crucified or witness Him defeat death. They didn’t have knowledge of any of these things. They only had Jesus standing in front of them, inviting them to follow Him.

This same invitation is extended to each of us. Some here have already started following Him, and they haven’t been disappointed. There are also some here who haven’t quite gotten out of the boat, they are waiting for more. But just like the disciples, there is no more. Jesus is all that there was, all that there is, and all that there ever will be. Hope in Jesus, follow Jesus, have faith in Jesus and you will then find that God will pour out knowledge and joy and peace on you. Those things are easy to come by, faith requires work. The disciples had nothing to lose by following Jesus Christ. They could’ve changed their minds or turned back at any time. They had nothing to lose but found that they gained everything. Their act of faith allowed them to become great fishers working all over the world to catch the souls of men for Jesus Christ. We are like them, here at the beginning of the gospel standing in our boats, listening to the words of Jesus “Follow me”…..

May God give us the courage to get out of our comfort zone, out of the boat and into a life changing encounter with the Lord, the great fisher of souls.

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