by Laurie Gudim
Today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke reminds me of that bit from the Monty Python movie Life of Brian where some people toward the back of the crowd are straining to see and hear the Sermon on the Mount. One asks, “What did he say?” Another, standing a bit closer than the first, turns and says, “I think it was, ‘Blessed are the Cheese Makers.’”
Truly, it must have been frustrating to be part of the throng following Jesus. Standing in the midst of dozens of other people, with babies crying, kids running in and out, and people murmuring and jostling, the struggle to comprehend the message must have been truly daunting. How many missed fragments, wrong words, and twisted interpretations there must have been.
On this occasion Jesus addresses the problem in an innovative way. He gets into a boat and pushes off a little way from the shore. It’s a good strategy, for if the wind is still enough sound will be amplified as it crosses the water.
But even though Jesus has a better chance of being heard, it seems like the people who are really changed by the experience this day are the fishermen whose boat he has commandeered. When he is done talking to the crowd he takes them fishing and then he fills their nets. After they have taken in the size of the catch he has led them to make, he tells them, “Come, and I’ll make you fishers of people.” With his demonstration of abundance and his profound love for these folk he builds a seine that captures their hearts.
And they leave their lives as fishermen and follow him. When he has finally, through his death and resurrection, revealed to them all he possibly can about who he is, they do indeed learn to fish for people. They get down to the business of helping others be transformed in the same way that they were. They braid nets of words and actions and cast them out, ensnaring hearts.
But to what end? Too often I’ve taken this image of fishers of humans at face value, assuming that the purpose evangelism serves is simply to bring folks to the community that follows Jesus. But this peculiar religion of ours that has death and resurrection at its core cannot merely aspire to the recruiting of believers. It’s not about perpetuating some exclusive rules or set of beliefs. What are the teachings Jesus gives, really, except a strand in a bigger web? Fragments – interpretations – wrong words or right ones – they have no meaning apart from the living presence, the incarnate reality of the Christ. He is a gateway to relationship with God. He is love in the flesh. In fact, he is God.
And we, we simple mortals, we are meant for God. We belong to God, and our hearts deeply long for that fundamental relationship. Learning where to find it, how to live into it, and how to distinguish it from the myriad lesser yearnings that seek to imprison us is our most important job. Whether we are cheese makers or peace makers, finding our way home to God is the only activity that matters. For it is in that affiliation alone that we learn who we really are.
Meeting the Christ who is love incarnate is always a personal experience. Through our stories of our encounters with the Holy and through our actions in support of those who need help, who need community, or who need us to stand with them in witness and solidarity, we share that living relationship in a way that can make it accessible to others.
So think about being a fisher of people. In your words or in your actions how do you proclaim your relationship with the God who is love? How do you cast out a net into the deep waters of the Soul?
Laurie Gudim works is a religious iconographer and writer in Fort Collins, Colorado. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.She has recently published her novel, Loving the Six-Toed Jesus, available from Amazon.
Image: Public Domain pixabay