Saturday, 22 January 2011

Will you?

GospelMatthew 4:12-23 

Hearing that John had been arrested, Jesus went back to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, a lakeside town on the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali. In this way the prophecy of Isaiah was to be fulfilled:
‘Land of Zebulun! Land of Naphtali!
Way of the sea on the far side of Jordan,
Galilee of the nations!
The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light;
on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death
a light has dawned.’
From that moment Jesus began his preaching with the message, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.’
  As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew; they were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’ And they left their nets at once and followed him. Going on from there he saw another pair of brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John; they were in their boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.
  He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people.

'At once' seems like Jesus had some kind of hypnotic power over the people that he called. That he could say their name and they would drop everything and walk away.  It seems impossible or, at least improbably for these men; with homes, families and livelihoods to be prepared to turn away and risk everything on this wandering preacher.

Modern theologians put forward the theory that by living in in this lakeside town, Jesus had probably been working on or near the docks; that he had sat and ate and talked with these men; that he had spent time getting to know them; that perhaps they already knew and respected him as a rabbi of sorts. There is the possibility that he had already shared his mission with them so that the call to leave was expected, planned  - they were just waiting for the right moment.

Which is certainly more logical and makes much more sense but it's not what it says in the Gospel - it's not what it says in any of the Gospels.

The call did not come at the right moment; not for any of these men. Preparing a fishing boat; deciding where to cast a net; repairing, cleaning and folding the nets for the next days fishing - none of these are five minute tasks. A boat is not crewed with a few men 'spare' - every man on the deck, every man on the dock has a job to do; a crew to fit into; a tradition and a responsibility not just to himself but to his crew;  his partners; his family; the community itself. Every man has his place; every man knows his place.

The very thought of bringing in a boat without a catch; of dropping a net still tangled and torn would have horrified those around them; would have horrified them,  looking back on it. But they did it.

Why? Not because it is part of some great plan but because Jesus calls them by name.

In the spiritual world, in every culture; your name, your real 'this is who you are' name is incredibly important and holds great power. Some believe your real name is gifted to you at some initiation point in your life; that  you should not share this name recklessly with others; that knowing this name will give others power over you. God, who is only 'I Am',  tells us that our names are written on his hand.

Jesus knows the power of names; he calls demons by theirs and takes away their power to name him. He names and re-names his followers; he looks into them and sees who they really are. And calls that person into the light; onto the path that will lead them home.

The four may well have good fishermen; great family men; well liked friends and workmates. They may have believed that the life they were leading was as good as it gets; as good as they imagined  they wanted. Any wonderings about the why and how of things may have been something for a walk under the stars  or a sleepless night, and no more.  The empty space waiting to be filled; the awareness of 'something else' given over to childish fancy or a moment in prayer.

And then they were called, named and transformed - fishermen - fishers of men. A small difference; but enough.

In our lives it can be just as subtle; just as extreme. We have many names, many roles to play; lives that rely and are relied on by others. God may be in there somewhere. A scripture meeting; an hour at Mass; a book now and again; understanding that there are tasks and intentions that God is asking of you  of all of us, but we are really too busy; too involved in the other day to day priorities that we all encounter. We could do more, but not now; not yet.

Then,  in the middle of some mundane, necessary task, it will come. Jesus will hold a mirror to your eyes and show you who he sees; will  call you by the name written on his Father's hand and it will be up to you.

Will you follow?



Barbara said...

Thought provoking. I always imagined when I read this encounter that the men could see in Jesus' eyes, His face, the importance of the call and the possiblities. Thank you for this motivating perspective!

Mari said...

Willingly follow :) Wonderful way of portraying his power to lead and be followed.

Have a wonderful Saturday :)

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you Barbara and Mari - have a blessed week.