Homily- Fishing in Chaotic Waters

What does it mean to become a “fisher of men”?  How is it heroic?  Homily on St. Luke 5:1-11 and 2 Corinthians 9:6-11.
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Homily: On the Abundance that God Grants to His People
2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Luke 5:1-11

Toiled all night… and caught nothing. But Christ told them how to do it, and they filled their boats full.

What are we to learn from this? The main thing is that if Christ-God can empower His apostles to catch fish despite the difficult circumstances, that He is capable of making their evangelical work effective, despite the difficult circumstances. “From now on you will catch men”. And catch men they did, despite the imperial pagan culture that surrounded them and so many of the Jews that would work against them; they brought people to God through Jesus Christ. He did it for them as they brought new life to their communities two thousand years ago and He will do it for us as we do the same now.

Let’s go a bit deeper into this lesson.

Themes: Water as Chaos. It’s an uncertain place. Sometimes it is good and beautiful. Sometimes it is bad (storms, monsters). Sometimes it is easy to be there and sometimes it is downright dangerous. But here’s the thing: fishermen are not going to catch what they need if they stay on the shore. You have to go where the fish are, and they are out there in the deeper places. In this way, the fisherman is a kind of hero: like every hero, he journeys out into the uncertain places to bring something necessary back to his community. Only recreational fisherman fish from the shore.

Isn’t it the same with evangelism? With sharing the Gospel? Do you see how it is like being a fisherman? Why it is such a heroic act? Evangelism requires that we bring the Gospel to the edges, to the places where it has not tamed the culture, where it has not brought harmony and good direction to the heart’s of men, women, and children. These edges are uncertain places; sometimes our encounters there are good and beautiful, sometimes they downright dangerous. But here’s the thing: evangelists are not going to spread the Gospel if they only live and proclaim it among people who themselves live and proclaim it. Evangelists have to go to the edges of their communities, to the untamed places. As with fishing, that is where the real catches can be made. Only recreational evangelists fish from the pews, as it were.

We can take this metaphor one step further using a tried and true image of the Church as a boat. The safest place for the fisherman’s boat is tied up to the dock; or even dry docked within a warehouse. But is that what a fisherman’s boat is made for? No, it, like those who work its nets, must spend time out in the water. That is what they are made for. To be out in the chaos doing their heroic work.

This work of going out to the edges, to the deep, can be dangerous and it can be frustrating, But here is the beauty of today’s Gospel – and it builds on the lessons we’ve been studying the last few weeks – if we make God’s will our will, and if we make His ways our ways, then everything else falls into place. With and in Christ, the Chaos (the edges, the deep) can be tamed and its yield can become predictable and good. The apostles caught nothing all day, but when they followed Christ’s command – that is, when the made His will their own and His ways their own ways – they caught more than their boats could hold.

To reiterate the deeper magic at work here: the right goal, combined with righteous, sacrificial effort brings God’s blessings.

Today’s epistle confirms this and adds another layer: our attitude matters.

God does not want slaves who do the right things because they are forced to; He does not want servants who do the right things because they want some kind of benefit; He wants us to do the right thing for the same reason He does the right thing: because it is the right thing and it is both His duty and His great love to do the right thing.

He who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully; … for God loves a cheerful giver.
2 Corinthians 9:6b & 7b.

Let us direct our attention to [God] while showing all zeal in making offerings with complete enthusiasm, and let us sow generously in season so that we may also reap generously. … Now, after all, is the time for sowing, which I beseech you not to ignore, so that on the day of harvesting we may gather the returns of what was sown here and be regaled with loving kindness from the Lord.
St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 34.8.

God has given us as individuals and us as a community very specific goals. One of the primary goals of this parish is to bring Christ to the community around these walls: to be the fishers of the people in the deeps and chaotic places of the Sixth Ward, of Allentown, and of the Lehigh Valley. It is an intimidating work, but look around you – He has given us good co-workers in this task (praise our seniors, our pinchers, our men’s group). We have all shown that we are willing to sacrifice for this parish, just as our ancestors did.

Now let’s make sure that make the Lord’s goal for His Church is the goal we set for this, His parish. It’s interesting: the changing economy and demographic forces have already put us into the deep, as it were, now all we have to do is make sure we let down the nets. It doesn’t matter what the nets brought in in the past: let’s rededicate ourselves to the Gospel and throw them out again.

It’s our turn to be the heroes in this great epic of the world’s salvation.

Let’s finish with the same blessing that St. Paul uses in today’s epistle, a blessing that uses the metaphor of farming rather than fishing:

Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness.
2 Corinthians 9:10

In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

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Bray, G. L. (Ed.). (1999). 1–2 Corinthians (pp. 279–280). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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