In an Ignatian fantasy, I imagine standing with the fishermen along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The smell of fish and lake water hangs in the air, and voices are raised in banter and laughter. “Look at the size of this one,” says a fellow with wild hair streaked with gray. He is holding up a huge, floppy fish by its gills, and the muscles in his arms bunch under skin the color of steeped tea. Others laugh and make rude jokes. They are all exhausted, covered in sweat and fish scales and not much else.
Into their midst comes a man. What is he like, this non-fishing fellow? I imagine that most eyes see him and dismiss him. He doesn’t appear to be either a merchant or a fisherman. His clothing is non-descript, a little the worse for wear. He’s been sunburned recently; the skin on his nose and cheeks is peeling.
He stops by a certain boat and addresses the men working there. With an uneasy joke meant for the other workers, they drop what they are doing and join him. They all walk on until they come to another boat. Again there is an exchange and a couple of the men in that boat drop what they are doing and join him.
What did this man say to the fishermen to get them to come with him? It must have been some magnetic combination of his presence and his words. “I will make you fishers of men,” is what we hear from Mark’s Gospel. But what would that have meant to fishermen?
There have been very few people who have motivated me to make dramatic changes in my life, but there have been a few. They all had this in common: they spoke a truth my soul affirmed. They called me in ways I recognized in the depths of my being, and I couldn’t help but follow.
Lately we’ve all heard that it is important to listen well to people who profoundly disagree with us, and I agree that this would be a helpful thing. But maybe even more important than listening is speaking. We are horrified that Christianity has been hijacked by a fringe group that has misunderstood its primary teaching — but what have we done to assert what WE know? When have we struggled to find words for and to express why we go to church on a Sunday morning, why we listen to our favorite spiritual writers, why we follow the Way of Love?
People need our voices and our understanding. And I really do believe that when they hear the call of Love they will respond. Their souls will leap for joy as they recognize our words. They may be frightened and angry as well — the call of Christ brings a profound reorientation — but they will recognize, and, hopefully, be changed.
Call out what you know. It doesn’t have to be perfect; people will respond as much to your presence as to your words. You belong to Christ, and he needs you to be the voice that calls his people who have gone astray. Call out the Gospel that sings in your heart!