People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.
— Trevor Noah
Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, 2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Do you know anyone who has a contagious love for life?
I know a few people who I admire, because regardless of what’s happening in the world, they are full of love for living.
What I admire is not any form of perfection [which doesn’t exist], or any type of suppression or deflection of the pain, suffering, and challenges in the world and in our own bodies and minds.
What I admire is their love for life.
They don’t rush after material things, public approval, or empty promises. They are honest, often unfiltered, and directly compassionate. Why? Because they have learned over time to love themselves, love others as they are, and to be grateful for life itself.
Imagine that you fish for a living. It’s a job. Perhaps you didn’t choose that profession–much like those who were fishing at Gennesarat Lake. A hidden part of this Luke story is that the Roman occupation of Israel led to a more solidified caste system. Jewish folk [Judeans] were now paying taxes to the Romans to do things they had always done without having to pay a fee. In other words, those who fished were no longer fishing for themselves, for their village, or for their family. They were fishing for the oppressors.
Hard to love what you do in this case.
And that’s how we encounter Simon, James and John, and others. They are not fishing for the love of it, or even for the sustainability of it. They are fishing for strangers. What they catch they can’t even keep all of it. And they pay just for the “privilege” of fishing in their own place. Sounds terribly familiar, does it not?
Enter Jesus of Nazareth. Note that Jesus invites these fisher people to metaphorically move past “fish” to something even bigger. What if their current existence wasn’t supposed to be their fate? What if they didn’t have to fish for the Romans and call it their life? What if they could LOVE what they do? What if they could FISH in a new way?
It should not be overlooked that these people left their forced labor to follow this new Way. They could have stayed in the system, because that was all they knew. They could have kept casting their nets like robots, in the same way, and in the same areas.
But they didn’t.
And Jesus said: “Don’t be afraid.” Yep, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to drop what you’re doing because you just don’t love it anymore. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart and mind to discover fulfillment. Don’t be afraid to resist the oppressors and to join in community with those who love you and accept you.
Friends, what would happen if we chose what we love? What would change if we loved life itself and loved the life of other living beings?