The call of Simon the fisherman
There is an old saying from mid-19th-century England: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The call of Simon the fisherman from Saint Luke’s Gospel (Luke 5:1-11) reminds me of my own calling to the priesthood. When Christ asked Simon Peter to go out to deep waters and lower his nets for a catch, picture his reaction and that of his companions. They are tired from the late-night fishing and probably frustrated because they were not able to catch any fish. However, obeying the Master’s instruction, they went out to the deep water and caught an abundance of fish — to the point of almost sinking both boats.
Simon Peter’s reaction to this miracle of Jesus was to admit that he was a sinful man and not worthy to be part of Jesus’ company. He said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
The Lord’s response to Simon Peter was, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching men,” and Simon Peter “left everything and followed Him.”
Many of us may have been asked at one time to consider the priesthood or even religious life as a brother or sister and may have thought to ourselves: Am I worthy? Am I holy enough?
I remember the days leading up to my ordination, the thoughts of doubt, of my worthiness — will I be a good enough priest? These all crossed my mind during my prayers.
A wise priest gave me advice that calmed my nerves. He said, “God has called you to this ministry and that is enough to make you worthy.” Remember, Jesus called a sinner to be the rock for His Church.
We can only respond to that calling from Jesus by answering “yes, Lord,” or “no, Lord.” Many will choose the latter, because a “yes” response to that call may mean that your dreams or profession has to be put aside. But have you considered what God had planned for you? All you need to do is pray for what God wants for you! The God who calls us is also the God who created us, and I am sure, beyond all doubt, He knows what He wants for you.
Simon Peter the fisherman became the rock on which Jesus entrusted His Church. During Simon’s encounter with the Lord that evening on the boat, he believed that he was unworthy to be in Jesus’ company, but Simon listened to the Lord’s instructions to follow Him and became the leader Jesus knew he was capable of being.
Going back to the old saying “Give a man a fish,” Jesus entrusted the job of the salvation of souls to fishermen, to sinners — to human beings. He transformed the Apostles to be leaders of the Church. The catch is abundant, but the fishermen are few.
My advice for someone who is discerning a call is first to pray about it; second to see your parish priest or religious sister to help guide you through the doubts and concerns. Third, sign up for a vocation event like a Come and See weekend or a St. Andrew Breakfast.
God will always provide for us in abundance if we trust in Him by responding to His call. Teach a man to fish, you will feed him for a lifetime. May we have more fishermen for the salvation of souls.