According to the 20th century Scottish novelist John Buchan, The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” During this first week of Easter I ponder the hope, Jesus infused into the Apostles upon his return. After the apparent defeat on Good Friday, his followers returned to their “day jobs” as fishermen (cf John 21:3). That day began without much hope— they caught nothing after several hours! Appearing at the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus, not yet recognized by the disciples, gave the following advice, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something” (John 21:6). This resulted in the fulfillment of their hope— an overabundance of fish!
Hope in the Hauling
Jesus begin his ministry in Matthew 4:19 with a similar promise of hope— “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Originally, piscators by trade, Christ transforms the Apostles work from a mere day job to a new way of life! After his Resurrection, the first command Jesus gave to the Apostles occurred in Matthew 28:19. Jesus commanded, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, God makes it clear that EVERYONE is called to hear the good news of his Resurrection! I know this may sound cliché, but the example of Peter, James, and John being called by Jesus to become fishers of men is an extremely appropriate and ever applicable way to speak of how we should spread the faith!
While not an expert in fishing, I have a couple family members who fish for a living. A few years ago, my family and I went fishing with my father-in-law. While a lot of things are necessary for fishing, I will highlight only two things that directly apply to evangelization— patience and fishhooks.
Wait for the Big Haul
First, patience is essential to fishing especially when we went because it took over thirty minutes before we caught anything. The same is true for spreading our faith. We must wait and lead others to Christ on God’s time. God is not giving commission-based raises on how many converts we pull in, rather I image God wants us to patiently wait for the right people to be placed in our life that need our help or hooking to lead them to the Catholic Church.
Along with the virtue of patience, fishermen require a fishhook. Without that barbed instrument on the end of the line it would be nearly impossible to hook and capture a fish. Likewise, I tend to see Jesus’ command to be fishers of men (see Matthew 4:19) in a more nuanced way, namely, that we should be the hook that captures people and keeps them on God’s line.
Imagine the greatest evangelists in the history of the Catholic Church: St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi. What did they all have in common? They all suffered from a “barbed past”. Paul murdered Christians. Augustine suffered from sex addiction. Francis came from a miserable family. A fishhook is designed to be sharp and curved at the end to hook a fish’s gums. Similarly, God uses saints with a “barbed” past help Him reel in new people into the Catholic Church.
My challenge to you, my readers, is this: if you sense that God has placed certain people in your life to evangelize to please do not be afraid to do so. The best witness to evangelize our faith is to hear from people that have suffered yet maintained a steadfast faith in God. Do not shy away from a “barbed” or hurtful past. Open yourself up to share your faith story. I truly feel God is calling me to work in a secular workplace to shine forth his truth. As a matter of fact, I had a couple co-workers interested in my faith! I feel called by God to be his “fishhook”. Fishing requires patience. Sometimes our target will slip away because we act too rashly. We must allow God to do most of the reeling in. Christians are merely His evangelical instrument. God is the Divine fisherman!