As a kid I remember wondering why people used the expression, “holy mackerel!” if they got excited, upset or awed. I thought there must be something holy about fish and fishing because Jesus and his friends spent a lot of time in boats. As a community development volunteer in the Amazon jungle, I heard the adage, “Give a person a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a person to fish, he eats for a year.” Someone added, “Find out who owns the river, fish forever.”
I think this analogy is useful for us as a parish trying to become holy because “holy” doesn’t just happen in church. Most often it happens within the walls of our homes as we try to live out the gospel requirements to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick.
So how do faith, parishes, families and fishing fit together? Jesus reminds us that salvation has to do with love, and love compels us to serve our neighbors. Our closest neighbors, of course, are the people in our own family, but we also know that Jesus puts no limits on how far our family extends. If we are to love our neighbor not just in theory, but also in practice and service, it brings us back to fishing. Giving a person what they need, teaching them skills, making things accessible.
Here at St. George we try to serve fish to those in need, teach them how to catch their own fish, and make the river accessible. We volunteer at the Boston Rescue Mission, we distribute food vouchers regularly, and we help people with rent, meds, and utilities. We co-sponsor, participate, help out with blood drives, clothing drives, road races. We try to live out our faith on the days between Sundays with the people in our own backyard and those who are yards away.
Our sacred texts are filled with the lives of ‘good and faithful servants’, holy people, who are numbered among God’s righteous. In imitation of the Christ who ‘came not to be served, but to serve’, women and men, down through our long history, have benefited humanity by their lives of selfless giving. Thanks to God, many are here in our own parish, living among us.
At St. George, we’re surrounded by some of the holiest people we’ll ever know. Ordinary people, who sing, drink, dance and pray, like the folks at Cana. People who work hard like Martha and weep like Mary. We live with people who sacrifice time, money, convenience, careers or health in their care for each other, trying to make this world a better place. We do all these things because they believe the words of Jesus, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my people, that you do it for me.”
And they don’t think they’re holy? Holy mackerel!