"Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
What does it mean to fish for people? Many of us were told by church voices it was a sort of collection, a saving of souls of one kind or another, like gathering so many fish in a net. Ironically this wouldn’t be good news for the fish! These notions grew out of a particular identity, out of a sense that we who were doing the fishing had already achieved something—some understanding or status or privileged relationship with the holy that situated us on the inside of a circle we were looking to draw wider.
Is there another way to understand this that takes into account what we have learned about our own stories and others’, that resist our predilections toward division and the ego’s need for self-justification that drives it? “I belong to Apollos, ” “I belong to Cephas…” said our ancient Corinthian siblings in their embittered community. Paul rejoins, “Has Christ been divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).
The practice of the early church seemed to have much to do with making a space in the present for those who were not finding one. Mothers and brothers—siblings with which to travel life joyfully and with everything that was needed, an astonishingly rich tapestry of the human family. It was the presence of a new economy, if you will, and a way of thinking about whatever we do—fishing or otherwise—as a vocation, as a way to use what we have been given—talents and tongues, bread, education, medical care, time, even suffering—to bless and be blessed.
Enter into worship.[i]
Readings: Isaiah 9:1-4 † Psalm 27:1-4-9 † 1 Corinthians 1:10-18 † Matthew 4:12-23
About the Art: Peter Koenig is a Catholic artist located in the United Kingdom. Of his work, he says, “The goal of my life is to make a richer Christian-Catholic art. I want to paint the drama, romance and poetry of the sacred book.” This painting on the ceiling of St. Bede’s church in Newport Pagnell, UK, was inspired by a number of passages, including:
Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
[i] Koenig, Peter. Ceiling Painting for St Bede's, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=58545 [retrieved January 15, 2023]. Original source: Peter Winfried (Canisius) Koenig, https://www.pwkoenig.co.uk/.
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