Most homilists preach about becoming “fishers of men” by either focusing on vocations to the priesthood or rippling out the call to discipleship to be an invitation for all who have heard the Gospel. Either way, being caught in Christianity’s net was a good thing.
However, in his commentary on today’s Gospel passage, New Testament scholar Osvaldo Vena notes the obvious: “Fish, when taken out of water, die!” (workingpreacher.org). Vena recalls the Christian missionaries of his childhood home in Argentina who recast that undesirable consequence as dying to the world for new life in Christ. But he knew he had to wade deeper.
Enter activist theologian Ched Myers, who highlights how the great prophets of the Old Testament, Jeremiah, Amos, and Ezekiel, used the same metaphor to describe how God fishes out the unjust and casts judgment upon the cold-blooded rich and powerful (see Jer 16:16, Am 4:2, Ez 29:4). Vena quotes Myers, who says, “Jesus is inviting common folk to join him in his struggle to overturn the existing order of power and privilege” (Binding the Strong Man, p. 132).
What if Jesus’s call to his first disciples and to us was less about how many people we can reel in while lamenting those that got away and more about doing his mission of transforming the world into a place where all can thrive?