Becoming Fishers

fishing-stuffI will make you fishers of men if you follow me
If you follow me
I will make you fishers of men if you follow me

Riding along in the backseat of my mom’s white hutchback Celica on the way to the beach that summer before kindergarten started, we listened to songs like this one each day.  My brother and cousins and I, strapped in with criss-crossed seatbelts, played loudly together as the tape deck blared back at us.  At the time, we didn’t think much about what it might mean to become “fishers of men.”  A fairly literal thinker as a child (and today), I often imagined human beings coming up in the nets of Jesus and the disciples, wiggling around on the deck of a giant boat. 

But when I read this Gospel now, different images came to mind, mostly images of Jewish and Gentile men from early first century Galilee.  Don’t get me wrong, John the Baptist has been a hero of mine since I became aquainted with the Catholic Worker movement, and I see in Jesus an example of a man who valued women in specific and empowering ways.  However, language that makes us invisible is hardly constructive to Jesus’ message. 

On its face, it would seem that the message Jesus is sending is that only men are welcome at the table, respected as his messengers–or, if you’re taking Catholic ecclesiology seriously, called to be priests.  According to the church, Jesus called the disciples to be the first priests and Peter to be the first pope, and apostolic succession continues from then on through today. 

Yet I cannot believe that Jesus–the man who spoke to women outside of his family (hardly acceptable in first-century Jewish society), the healer who made upright the woman bent over, son of the Mary who sang the Magnificat–would call on his friends to seek out only those who looked like them.  The radical inclusivity of his life and witness refutes the apparent exclusion of the wording of this passage. 

What memories does this passage spark for you?  How do you respond to the notion of becoming “fishers of men”?

Photo Credit:

Jen Owens did not appreciate childhood fishing trips with her grandparents and brother in quite the same way she does as an adult.  She has never lived more than thirty minutes away from the water.   


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