In most bibles that give heading titles to sections (which are helpful, but not part of the original text), today’s gospel is labelled, e.g., The Call of Simon the Fisherman. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, get second billing in this account. However Jesus never “calls” them. He never utters a “follow me” to them, like in the accounts of calling the same fishermen in Mark 1:16-20 and Matthew 4:18-22. In our text, Jesus only talks to Simon. Later Jesus will give the command, “Follow me,” to Levi (Luke 5:27), who like these fishermen, “leaves everything and follows him” (5:11, 28). Jesus announces to Simon (and only to Simon!) what Simon will now be doing. This call/announcement comes not in a “holy” place such as the temple or synagogue, but at work. The call comes not to extraordinary, designated holy people such as priests or Pharisees, but to a fisherman; one who knows his sinfulness.
Today is the Feast of St. Patrick which has optional readings you can find here.
The scene in the gospel is familiar – “oh sure, I’ve heard this before, Jesus is calling his disciples to be fishers of men” – perhaps too familiar. As with most scriptures, there is more than meets the eye.
The account begins with a wide-angle view with Jesus in a natural amphitheater with a large crowd. Having Simon Peter take him in the boat just a little offshore, Jesus can take in the breadth of the crowd as he teaches. There among in the crowd are people who have heard of the great things he has done in Nazareth and Capernaum, as well as Pharisees, scribes and officials from Jerusalem. There too are the ones who will become his disciples and follow him.
Last week in the gospel, John the Baptist pointed out Jesus with the words, “Behold the Lamb of God….” – the same words you will hear today during Mass. In the gospel two people heard those words and were curious, wanted to know more, sensed the call of belonging – and so they followed… loosely at first, perhaps at a bit of a distance, a safe distance. Jesus sees them and speaks to their curiosity: “Come and see.”
Come to Mass and the Eucharist. Come to Bible Study. Come say your prayers, “Come and see.” Life has lots of “come and see” – moments when our curiosity is piqued. When we search and seek.
12 When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” Continue reading
“from now on you will be catching men” Literally, the next line reads: “from the now, you shall be catching alive (zogreo) people.” The similar phrase in Matthew and Mark reads: “I will make you (to become) fishermen [halieus] of people.” (This word for “fishermen” is used in v. 2 of our text.) Continue reading
1 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” 9 For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him. Continue reading
Last week’s gospel was, like this week’s gospel, a scene in which Jesus begins to call people to the ministry. When people were curious, Jesus responded. “Come and you will see…”
Just as we have heard the words so often in Mass, last week the would-be apostles heard “Behold the Lamb of God….” were curious, wanted to know more, sensed the call of belonging – and so they followed… loosely at first, perhaps at a bit of a distance, a safe distance. Jesus sees them and speaks to their curiosity: “Come and see.” We are a naturally curious people, but we have also learned to let lots of calls go to voicemail and let the moment pass. Still…. We are a curious lot. Continue reading
Fishers of Men. As the first act of the Galilean mission Mark reports the calling of Simon and Andrew to be fishers of men. Jesus found these brothers working as fishermen on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, elsewhere designated the Lake of Gennesaret or the Sea of Tiberias. The inland sea, which was twelve miles in length and six miles across at its widest point, provided a point of access between Galilee and Perea. There were many towns and fishing villages especially on the western and northern shores. The waters teemed with life, and when Jesus summoned the brothers they were casting their nets into the sea. Continue reading
Mark 1:14 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15 “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” 16 As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. 17 Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 18 Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. 19 He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. 20 Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
The Bigger Picture. The first major section of Mark’s Gospel extends from 1:14 to 3:6, and describes the initial phase of the Galilean ministry. Within this section the evangelist records the calling of the first disciples (1:16–20; 2:14), Jesus’ ministry in and around Capernaum (1:21–34), and a series of controversies (2:1–3:6) which are climaxed by the decision to seek Jesus’ death (3:6). Continue reading
Unlike Mark (Mark 3:13–14) and Luke (Luke 6:12–16), Matthew has no story of Jesus’ appointing the Twelve, he assumes that the formation of the group is already known to the reader. “Jesus summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. The names of the Twelve Apostles are these: first, Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.” (Mt 10:1-4)