YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 15TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: FISHERS OF MEN
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Jesus established his Church on the foundation of the twelve apostles. In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus sends out the Twelve on a mission and gave them specific instructions. We would naturally expect that since Jesus is thinking of a worldwide organization that is to last for the rest of time, he would choose the best and most capable men of the world. To our surprise, we realize that these were mostly rugged and unlettered fishermen of Galilee led by Simon, son of John. What do we expect from fishermen, anyway?
Some time ago, I got hold of a book by Robert Fulghum entitled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” If we can learn something from kindergarten, definitely we can learn more from fishermen. And Jesus, in his divine wisdom, knew this all too well. When it comes to the proclamation of the Gospel, there are five important lessons we can learn from fishermen. Just remember the letters P-E-R-T-H, the name of a city in Western Australia: PERTH.
P stands for the virtue of patience. A fisherman cannot force or hurry the fish. He waits patiently for the fish to come. God has His own appointed time to touch the hearts and minds of people. A preacher of God’s word must learn to be patient. He has no way of knowing what is going on in people’s minds and hearts. He just has to continue preaching, and God, in His appointed time, will be the one to touch and lead them to conversion.
E is for environment. The fisherman must know when and where to find the fish. He has to be in the proper environment: the right fishing area, the proper tide and time of the day or night, as well as the lunar condition. The Good News must be preached at the right time and place. It is foolish to preach inside the noisy train or bus, nor in a disco joint or nightclub. It is also absurd to preach to people who are sleepy or in a hurry. There are proper places, times and occasions conducive for preaching God’s word, which can be more productive and meaningful. And if the people in a certain locality do not welcome God’s messenger, he just has to “shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them” and move on to the next village.
R stands for resolve, or courage and determination. Fishing is not only difficult but also hazardous. The sea, with its unpredictable waves and winds, can be very dangerous. Jesus gave this warning to his disciples when he sent them on mission: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves” (Mt 10:16). Preaching God’s Word is also hazardous. There are many enemies of God out there who will try to destroy the messenger in order to stifle the message. But the messenger, like the fisherman, must continue with firm courage and resolve to deliver God’s message even in the midst of the turbulent waves and winds of the opposition. St. Paul gives this encouragement: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). The virtue of trust in God is truly necessary. That is why Jesus instructed the Twelve “to take nothing for the journey” so that they will not rely on what they have but have full trust in the power and grace of God.
T is for the right technique or the skill to catch fish. He must know what equipment to use: hook and line, traps or nets. And he should also know how to use them properly and effectively. Jesus used parables and common everyday examples, which people could easily relate to, and this was very effective. If he were around today, he would surely use the modern tools of mass media as well as the effective techniques in communications and public speaking.
H stands for the virtue of humility. The fisherman must remain always invisible to the fish. Otherwise, they will not come near. Such is the case in preaching. The central focus should always be Jesus and his message, and the preacher must remain invisible. He is to attract people to Christ, and not to himself. Ultimately, he has to realize that it is God who is doing the work; he is only His instrument. The entire ministry of St. John the Baptist is based on this virtue, and he concluded: “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). A narcissistic preacher who always blows his own horn will surely drive people away.
There is one final note. I was born and grew up in an island town. Our house is just a few meters from the sea. At night, especially when there is no moonlight, the sea is littered with lights coming from the boats of fishermen. Such a beautiful sight to behold indeed! What attracts fish most effectively is light. The best time to catch fish is during moonless nights. When it is dark, the fisherman uses a gas lamp on his boat. And the fish just come near the boat because of the light. It then becomes easy for the fisherman to catch them.
This is what Jesus is telling us: “You are the light of the world.” The best way to become fishers of men is to reflect the light of Christ. The way to be effective proclaimers of the word of God is by our good examples. We must live the teachings of Christ. We ourselves should be the living Gospel in the world. As Pope Paul VI rightly noted, “modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses”.
Incidentally, Perth is the capital city of Western Australia. It is famous for its ancient port, Freemantle, the home of many ships and fishing boats. It is also known worldwide as the City of Lights. Let us become shining lights through our Christian lives, and then we will be effective fishers of men and beloved disciples of the Lord.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422