I am not much of a fisherman. When we were kids we used to go fishing on a lake near home. I had an old rod, with a line and hook. We would dig some worms and then stick one of these unfortunate worms on the hook and dangle the line in the lake. All I ever recall catching was a few eels, some perch and the occasional catfish. Most times, we did not catch anything. But we did like the experience and went to the lake again and again. I think we were much like Simon Peter and his friends.
When Jesus borrowed his boat to speak to the crowd on the shoreline and then asked him to go fishing, Simon Peter responded: “Teacher, we have worked all night long and have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:1-11). They went out again in the hope of catching more fish. People who fish live in hope of an abundant catch.
The story our gospel presents is about fishing, but Luke is speaking about more than fishing. He describes Jesus as he calls disciples to follow him. They respond, but will often not be as successful as they hoped. Their lives will frequently not match the image of Jesus given them, but they live with hope. They can seek to pass on to others the Good News they have received, but frequently they will not be heard. Still, like all who fish, they live and act with hope.
What then can we learn about our call and conversion to discipleship through fishing? In Luke`s story, we can see several stages of the fishing enterprise. First of all, Jesus invites Simon to go fishing. He is tired and discouraged and resists. Then accepting to do so, Simon and Jesus together set out in search of the fish. They let down the nets in hope of finding them. Many fish are caught in the nets, so many that Simon needs the help of others. Lastly, with this cooperative effort they pull the fish into the boats and take them ashore. This is the image of our baptismal call as disciples of Jesus.
Call and conversion to discipleship, follows this pattern. There is an initial quest, a search. The quest begins with our baptism, or if we are older even before our baptism. It is seeking, questioning, wondering and searching, always with much uncertainty. Somehow we have an encounter and invitation. We find something of what we are seeking – we are hooked or netted. This is the first discernment of a call, a surface conversion. But it needs to go deeper. Having been touched by God, we need to allow this first contact to touch our very heart – a conversion of life. We might then begin to live the image of Jesus in our lives and share it with others. Simon simply went fishing. Ultimately he was touched to the depths of his heart – and became a committed disciple.
Our own call and conversion is not a one-time event. It is a lifetime quest - seeking, searching and coming to see God’s dream in the changing world that surrounds us. As well conversion is not “just for me”. Like Simon and his partners, conversion leads us to share such Good News with others who are also ``fishing`` or seeking. Conversion, like fishing is something we do over and over again, with and for others.
Question ~ Where are we in our own ``fishing``, our own conversion?