The call of the first disciples

Published January 23, 2021, 11:51 PM

by Manila Bulletin


After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat  ending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Fishers of men 

A fisherman’s life demands hard work and strength of character; it requires courage, firmness, and patience.It comes as no surprise, then, that for the work he means to accomplish Jesus should call strong, brave, and highly spirited fishermen of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James, and John to a different kind of mission: from being fishermen to becoming “fishers of men.” Yet the two vocations have many things in common. While leaving their boats and following Jesus, in a sense the fishermen of Galilee are not really giving up the work they have always loved.

Fishermen and fishers of men must work in teams. Fishing with a casting or dragnet requires the concerted efforts of a crew of one boat or even two boats. Jesus’ followers have to learn how to stay and work together; they are sent on mission in pairs (Lk 10:1).

Fishing and preaching the word of God entail patience and perseverance. The ordinary fisherman cannot determine where the fishes are and when they will come near. The preacher cannot afford to give up or despair. They have to believe that success will come in God’s time.

The fisherman must have courage to go out into the sea: the threat of a storm is always there. The preacher must contend with persecution, cynicism, and skepticism: the apostles will die for the faith they proclaim.

The fishermen love their work. They will continue to go out into the sea, even against such odds as money, power, and, often, government insensitivity.

Simon, Andrew, James, John, and the other apostles will find joy in preaching the Gospel and bringing men and women to the Kingdom of God. Their joy will be full when they will lay down their lives as fishers of men that Jesus has called them to become.

Today is the Sunday of the Word of God. It is “a Sunday given over entirely to the word of God, so as to appreciate the inexhaustible riches contained in that constant dialogue between the Lord and his people” (Pope Francis, Motu Proprio Aperuit Illis, 2). As Christians, we are a single people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us in the Word and the Sacrament. As Pope Francis suggests, “a day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, struck as we are by so many forms of blindness. Sacred Scripture and the sacraments are thus inseparable. When the sacraments are introduced and illumined by God’s word, they become ever more clearly the goal of a process whereby Christ opens our minds and hearts to acknowledge his saving work” (AI, 8).

SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: