Summer (July-August) 2021 - Gone Fishing
Sister Flavia, my fourth-grade teacher, had us memorize Bible verses. Every few weeks, she would quiz us. I quickly forgot most of them. Today, if someone asks if I have a favourite scripture quote, I usually answer, half-heartedly, John 21:3. Most people don't recall this one, "I am going fishing." It's a remark Peter made to his friends after Jesus was crucified and buried. His friends agreed to join Peter, and they headed off to the lake. They needed to go fishing after all they had experienced. Their dearest friend had just died a most tragic death, and they were traumatized, sad, discouraged and depressed. They needed to get away and clear their heads, so they went back to doing what they did before Jesus entered their lives. They went fishing.
Their escape to the lake didn't quite work out the way they wanted. They fished all night and caught nothing. They needed to come up with a catch to prove that they still had it in them, that they hadn't lost their touch. They were about to give up and admit that it was all over, and then they noticed a man standing on the shore. He told them to cast their nets back into the water to catch a lot of fish. So they did, and their nets started to break because of the large amount of fish. Finally, someone said, "Look, it's the Lord." Then they realized that Jesus was still alive. He made them breakfast, and they sat down on the beach and ate together.
When I go fishing, it's mainly to enjoy being on the water, the solitude and the peace. If I catch a fish, it's a bonus. As a boy, my Grandfather would take me fishing. He caught bass; I baited hooks and looked after the gear - sometimes I'd get a bite, I learned patience being with him out on the lake. My Father took me fly-fishing, that’s a very special skill – he taught me that fishing was an art – we enjoyed it. In the Amazon, I lived with Indians who loved to fish. They fished with bows and spears; they always caught something; I lost quite a few spears in the Ortaguaza River. Walking back to the village, the kids always stuck their best fish in my bag so I wouldn't be embarrassed in front of the elders. I learned about humility and empathy from them. In Pawtucket, my predecessor, Fr. Athanasios, was an avid angler. He gave me some incredible fishing gear. Fred took me saltwater fishing, and Geoff taught me the art of serf casting - that was always fun, even if I didn't catch much. In New Kensington, Deacon Glenn showed me how to fish for trout in the upper Alleghany River. There's a real knack to trout fishing that I never quite got down. Back in Boston, Deacon Eli took me offshore for blues, fish loved him and flocked to his boat. I helped him fill the cooler and was always thankful for a day with him on the water. Fadi took us blue water fishing off the Cape - that's when I finally caught lots of fish and enjoyed every minute. Now, I love to take my grandson fishing, and he ish. catches lots of fish.
At their breakfast on the beach, fish and bread, his friends realized that Jesus was very much alive and with them. His presence there was even better than it was before. When He took them from their boats and nets a few years earlier, they left everything to be with Him. Now, He was joining them in their everyday lives, doing what they did best, fish.
The truth of the Gospel is that Jesus is part of our everyday lives, helping us 'catch fish' and inviting us to 'sit down and eat'. He is with us most of all when we are doing things together with Him in mind.
As we enjoy the summer, the change of pace, a vacation, fishing, let's remain open to the real presence of Jesus in our everyday lives, especially in our relationships with each other. He will be asking us to serve and minister to each other. When we say, "I am going fishing", He will say, "Follow me".
Have a wonderful summer - go fishing!
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