2007 HOMILY Luke 5:1-11
You may have noticed there’s a
theme to today’s hymns: they all have a decidedly nautical tone. We led
off with an old Negro Spiritual that was really popular back in the days
of the civil rights battles and is a song of slaves calling out to the
Archangel Michael to lend them a hand as they rowed home from a day of
work. The second one was a favourite in Sunday school when we would fling
an imaginary fishing rod about, singing lustily and promising to also be
Fishers of Men.
Fishers of men? How did a
carpenter end up talking about fishing for men? If fact, have you ever
wondered how a carpenter ended up surrounded by fishermen . . . their
gifts and talents are so different. The carpenter generally works on
consignment or contract, while the fisherman must sell what he gathered
that day, for tomorrow the fish will have rotted. The carpenter carefully
selects the wood he will use, studies its surfaces, its defects, its
beauty and finally decides how he will craft it and then hones a myriad of
objects . . . a stool, a cart or a piece of art.
Compare that to the fisherman. He daily
spreads his net out on the waters and gathers whatever swims into it. One
is engaged in lengthy planning and perfecting in the safety of his own
quarters. The other risks his life on the whim of the storms and the
Yet it was fishermen who are numbered among his first
apostles, fishermen from whom He commandeered a boat so that He might
preach, safe from the pressing crowd, fishermen for whom He calmed the
sea and filled their nets and boats to overflow. Fishermen that He
invited join Him in fishing for men. How did they come to know each
other? What led Christ to choose so many fishermen for His friends and
followers? Why was the future of the Christian faith put in such hands?
It always confused me. As did so much of this story of the
fishermen’s invite bother me.
Now, for those of you who live in the city, commercial fishing
and these images may be a bit unfamiliar. But my father’s family were all
commercial fishermen and, as a child, I spent all my holidays heading out
on a fishing boat at 6:00 a.m. to watch the men haul in the nets.
So perhaps some of you won’t understand how I felt when I
first heard the phrase “I will make you fishers of men”. Well, let me
tell you, it was a horrible notion!
I lived in a commercial fishing village. I had seen first
hand the fish come out of the lake in the nets. When they are hauled out
of their natural environment, the deep waters, they gasp and flop
helplessly about and then suffocate on the deck of your boat in order that
they can provide food for others and an income for the fisherman. Their
fate is quick and final. Unless they are undersized and tossed back, they
are dead within moments of the fisherman pulling up their nets.
Now, why would Christ plant that image before His listeners?
The image of trapping and wrestling creatures from the environment in
which they can live, to die in an alien and unforgiving element for the
benefit of others?
Could it be that He was telling us that it is only in death
that we can truly live? Or that only in leaving the comfort of our
ordinary lives that we can truly find that for which we were born? I
was never sure but I think Christ was telling the fishermen to join in the
dance, the sheer blessing of everyday of life. And He was confident that
in knowing and loving Him, we would want to cast our nets to bring those
we love and care for to Jesus.
I think he chose fishermen because, unlike carpenters who pick
and choose among the many pieces of lumber they might work with, fisherman
cast wide their nets, seeking all the many kinds and sizes and shapes and
colours in which fish are found. Just as Christ seeks to save all of us.
And Christ gave us heaven to share with the
Because it is not just the apostles or even
the missionaries or the celebrant or the preacher who is called to bring
others to Christ. It is to each and everyone in this room that he
commissions to bring the world to Him.
May your hooks find their mark, may your nets weigh heavy and
may all those you seek, seek the Lord.
A M E N.