I will make something of you

POST BY AWentworth

Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men [1].   To follow Christ is to be changed.  He transforms his followers so as to enable them to be what God has always wanted them to be.  That fishermen will be turned into fishers of men suggests that the new person has something in common with the old.   Our re-committing ourselves to Jesus will alter us, but not beyond all recognition.   We do not follow Christ to escape from our responsibilities.  A large sacrifice was required not only of Simon, Andrew, James and John but also of Zebedee and others with whom the old life was being dutifully lived.  The revelation of the divine plan for us has been underway for a long time.  By the grace of God, we are already living in accordance with parts of it.  Our renewed discipleship strengthens our resolve to continue to do the good which we are already doing and to go further.  Nevertheless the call of Christ summons us away not only from sin but also from some of the good which up until now we have been doing.  They too were in their boat mending their nets [2].  Some worthwhile activities are interrupted in order to do an even greater good.

If the fishing continues, in a different way, so also does the mending of the nets.  The way of Christ is a new road but also a familiar one. Following Jesus is a fresh start.  It includes repair-work as well as starting again from scratch.  The Lord will find his friends in their boats fishing again in the old way and will help them to do their work better [3].  However he continues to call them to another sort of service.  Those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it[4]. The continuities are important.   The break with what has gone before is decisive.  Repent and believe the Good News [5].  Having allowed ourselves to be transformed, we now live by the Gospel.  Part of such a life of faith is the sharing of it with others.  The call of Jesus is intended to be heard and to be communicated.  His followers are meant to help with the transmitting of the word to those who have not yet heard it.  Such new arrivals are not exactly ‘netted’. They are certainly not trapped into being disciples. For many, meeting Christ feels like being disentangled from what has previously ensnared.  The ‘new nets’ of a disciple, or the repaired ones, are a means of lifting other people up.  They are not such much ‘caught’ as rescued.   The net of faith raises to new life those who swim into it.    No one is ‘netted’ or harvested.  To believe in the good news of Jesus Christ is to be freed.    It is captivity which is captured [6].

God has a vision of how we ought to be and allows us to choose to accept the new life which he offers. We are conformed to the divine plan. Lord, make me know your ways [7].  Jesus the teacher helps us with this task.  He calls us to walk with him and to talk about him to others. All this is peaceful, even slow.  A whole life might be taken up with hearing what the Lord is saying to us and acting on it.  Nevertheless, the call of Christ is pressing. He called them at once [8]. The response invited is prompt: and at once they left their nets and followed him [9].   The Lord unifies our life.  His way integrates the different strands of our existence. Prominent amid what is truly important to us are a series of quite urgent requests from him addressed to us.  It is like the teaching of Jonah: only forty days more and Nineveh will be destroyed [10]. In the best case we respond to what is asked of us with alacrity and joy.  The divine plan maps our delights as well as ways in which we might cope with what dismays and threatens to defeat us.  Jonah  was cast down by what was required of him yet he submitted to it in obedience to the word of Lord [11]. Many small acts of obedience to the will of God are the means by which our life is centred on him.  Does this centring come about slowly or quickly?  We only gradually draw close to the truth.  However sometimes we are asked to move quickly.  Some profound changes take place without much advance notice.  The Lord enables us to live in integrity.  He unifies, if we will let him, the different strands of our life.  The contrast may grow less marked between what is achieved quickly and what is more long-term in the evolution of our transformation.  Providence shapes our life through slowly-maturing processes and also through urgent demands for action and change and the grace to respond effectively to them.

We are not alone in being transformed by Christ.  He has gathered about him a throng of disciples.  We serve him, help each other and reach out to as many as we can around us.  The whole world is under the Lord’s rule, even if this is not acknowledged by everyone.  The kingdom of God is close at hand [12].  This proximity exists often unacknowledged.  That the kingdom is so near is not dependent on our living lives worthy of it.   The divine ordering of things does not strictly need our faith in it.  Nor are we the only conduits which might carry news of it to others.   It is the Lord who speaks and acts. He has made us witnesses to reality.  God who made the world is active in it.  Our life is now defined by our loving response to the divine presence in the world and by our longing to enjoy God’s closeness forever.  However, he is there, close to us, when we pay no attention as well as when we are more faithful and devout. He is in solidarity with the world even when it neglects him.  He is its saviour and it is susceptible of salvation. The divine plan is drawn up in love and mercy.  What providence constructs is also just.

The justice of the kingdom of God gradually imposes itself and will one day assert itself definitively. Such a judgement will not be in contrast to love and mercy but it will add justice to the reckoning.  That there will be such a reckoning informs our own response to Jesus’ calling us at once.  He has our whole life to make something of us. We, however, do not know exactly how long or short that will be. The interplay of the long and short term will eventually come an end. Our time is growing short [13].  One day, there will be no more fishing and no more mending of nets. The world as we know it is passing away [14].   Christ summons us from our old pursuits and attachments.  We leave them, drawn by his love, and aware that now is the hour and that this is the providential moment for us. They went after him [15].  The sons of Zebedee did not suppose that they were departing forever.  They would surely return before long.  Their father had need of them and they of him.  In discipleship, there are continuities as well as new departures.  In truth, they were leaving their father and their nets to go into eternity. They were being made into citizens of heaven.  Choosing to follow Christ, they were submitting to the divine plan.  They were handing themselves over to providence.  I will make you into fishers of men.  The Lord is making something of us: disciples, fishers, saints and friends forever.  He is shaping us according to his will and providence.  How we used to be is significant.  Our nets were somehow being mended.   We repent of the sins in which we were enmeshed.  We honour the good work were previously able to do.  We re-commit ourselves to live by the good news and to allow the kingdom to be built up in us and through us. Jesus calls us again to follow him.  We do so promptly and for the long haul.

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              Mark 1.17

[2]              Mark 1.19

[3]              Luke 5.1-11 and John 21.1-14

[4]              1 Corinthians 7.31

[5]              Mark 1.14

[6]              Ephesians 4.8 and Psalm (68) 67.19 in the Vulgate: ascendisti in altum, cepisti captivitatem

[7]              Psalm (25) 24.4

[8]              Mark 1.20

[9]              Mark 1.18

[10]            Jonah 3.4

[11]            Jonah 3.3

[12]            Mark 1.15

[13]            1 Corinthians 7.29

[14]            1 Corinthians 7.31

[15]            Mark 1.20