‘As Jesus 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.’ – Matthew 4:18
My Dad was a fisherman. Fishing was not just a hobby for him, it was his pathway to solace, fulfillment, and renewal. He wanted me and my brother Doug to be fishermen too. Instead, we rebelled by setting up a 3-hole golf course around his fishing cabin! I look back now and wish I had spent more time with my Dad out fishing.
A few years ago, I asked Danny Schieffler, a priest who is an avid fisherman, why did Jesus call fisherman as his first disciples. Danny said, ‘He sees action. He sees two brothers out doing something. He sees two guys willing to take a risk. He sees two souls who are on an adventure.’
Danny went on to share some advice about what fishing has taught him about becoming a disciple. He said a fisherman has to think like a fish. One of the first steps in becoming a disciple is a willingness to think beyond yourself. A disciple is a learner, one who is willing to enter the mind of his or her teacher. Jesus is looking for disciples that are not only willing to enter the mind of Christ, but also willing to enter the minds of others.
Jesus calls us to ‘fish for people.’ That means acknowledging that each species of fish, and each person, is different. That means finding out what each person is yearning for at the deepest level of his or her heart. That means listening carefully and presenting a fellow traveler with how the eternal bread of life that Jesus offers can fill his or her longing for a meaning that matters.
Danny said that, to a fisherman, failure is not a deterrent. If one doesn’t catch a fish one day, she or he goes back the next day in hopes of better luck. The keys to fishing are to keep showing up, keep your hook in the water, keep casting your net. It is a way of life in which you acknowledge that you are not in control of the situation nor in control of the outcome. It is the fisherman who provides availability and perseverance. It is God who provides the fish.
Finally, Danny told me that part of the joy of fishing is to give yourself fully to the adventure. It is a willingness to leave the safety of hugging the shore and to sail boldly into the uncharted waters of the open sea. For Peter and Andrew, and then for John and James, they were willing to leave their nets and their homes to go on an adventure with Jesus. They had no idea where it would lead. But they were willing to go. Their willingness to be caught by him was their first act of faith. Where will we cast our net?