Todays introit give us a foreshadowing of the Gospel for this Third Sunday in Ordinary Time B: “The Lord walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and he called out to them: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
And since I can’t help myself, here’s the original latin text with my meager translations: “Dominus secus (walking by or along) mare Galilaeae (the sea of Galilee) vidit duos fratres,(He saw two brothers) Petrum et Andream,(Peter and Andrew) et vocavit eos:(And “He” called them) Venite post me: (Come follow after me) faciam vos fieri piscatores hominum.”(I will make you become”fieri” fishers of men)
This Sunday’s Gospel comes from the first chapter of Mark and recounts what happened after John had been arrested. Christ came and called Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John. He told them, come. Follow me. I will make you fishers of men. There was something special about what Christ told these four men. Something that they knew instantly upon hearing his words that made them follow him.
If you ever have read or listened to anything about vocations the phrase: “Fishers of Men” is very very common. It has become something synonymous with the priesthood. The idea of a man going out and fishing, not for fish, but rather for men seems similar to the idea of a man going out and seeking souls, winning souls for Christ and his kingdom of Heaven.
In the time of Christ the Rabbi was a reverenced and very well-respected member of the community. The smartest Jewish boys were chosen as apprentices of sorts who would follow the rabbi and learn from him. Most likely this was the same case with Christ. He was the rabbi and the four he called had heard of him and his preaching. These simple somewhat common or to some “stupid” uneducated men were chosen by Christ to learn from him and pass on his teaching, eventually pastoring and establishing the church. These men literally “JUMPED” at the invitation of Christ, this rabbi, and the chance to study under him. “They left their nets and followed him.”
As I continue throughout seminary I think back to when I first heard Christ’s call in my own life to discern the priesthood. I pray every day that I might come to know what the meaning of that call was, what the outcome will be. This time in Seminary is somewhat like when those four were chosen by Christ as he walked along the Sea of Galilee. That was their time in seminary.
Seminary comes from the latin root semen or seed. Literally seminary means seedbed. So the primary seedbed of vocations which is started by a family and the upbringing of a young man eventually leads to his formation in the church’s seedbed, the physical seminary, a time in which Christ converts our hearts and draws them closer to himself. In seminary a man grows into who God created him to be with the help of his formators and spiritual directors. He spends time praying in the garden with Christ, weeping over the sadness he experiences and the struggles along the way. He spends time walking along the Sea of Galilee immersing himself in the scriptures and beginning a life of ministry to those around him. He goes and witnesses his own “first miracles” as he experiences the opportunities for Christ and the way in which Christ works through our lives.
The four men called on the Sea of Galilee heard their call and started seminary. They began the path to become Fishers of Men, priests, bishops, men thirsting after the heart of Christ and wanting to share him with everyone they meet. As a seminarian in this now 2000 year old church I experience my own call from Christ. I experience my own time praying with him in the garden, my own experiences of his mercy and love working through those around me. In fact through the seminary I too was able to follow Christ’s footsteps and walk by the Sea of Galilee in my Pilgrimage to the Holy Land last year.
Following Christ and being in seminary has proven to be hard at many different points thus far. I have had to surrender my will, and strive to follow Christ and his church more closely. But with every turn of trial or surrendering of my will comes great peace. There is a great joy in being able to surrender yourself to another and practice humility. It can be very freeing. Seminary has been so many joys and gifts as well. I have grown so much and continue to do so. Through seminary I am able to walk beside Christ and give myself to him more completely so that one day I can stand in his place during the Mass and consecrate bread and wine through him into his very flesh and blood.
Let us each regardless of being in seminary or not strive to walk beside Christ and learn from him along the way. Let us lean on him in our struggles and walk along the Sea as we become fishers of men!