“Called to be fishers of people”
by Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
They pulled the boats up on the beach, left everything, and followed Jesus.
The gospel reading this Sunday, the fifth Sunday after Epiphany is about Jesus calling the fishermen in Gennesaret lake. I recall the piece which I contributed through this column seventeen years ago. I hope this will not disappoint loyal readers of this paper because I shall be sharing almost the same of that almost two-decade piece. This is so because the readings in the liturgical Lectionary are in a 3-year cycle and this Sunday we have come full circle to Cycle C by which the readings are the same in the year 2001. Here is that reflection which I think is still very relevant this year 2019 and even beyond. “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.’ (Luke 5.10.RSV)
So often we read the above words of Jesus and wonder why we do not see this taking place in our churches. A few years ago, Dr Win Arn did a survey of 1,000 congregations. The answers that he received might help us better understand the problem. He asked both the members and pastors of these churches what they thought the purpose of their church really was. Dr Arn reports that 89 percent of the people in those churches said that the purpose of their church was to take care of the needs of the members. The remaining eleven percent believed that the purpose of the church was to reach the world with the gospel. Contrast this with the pastors: Ninety percent of the pastors said that the purpose of their church was to reach the world for Christ while the remaining ten percent of pastors in those churches agreed with the laity that the purpose of the church is to take care of the needs of the members of the church.
Is it any wonder why there is conflict in our churches today? The great Renaissance scholar Erasmus once told a very helpful mythical story which goes this way: It seems that after Jesus returned to heaven the angels gathered around him. He told them about how on earth he had performed many miracles and how he spent time teaching the many who would come to him. He told them his death, burial, and resurrection. He told them about his ascension in heaven. Then Michael the Archangel asked, “But Lord, what happens now?” Jesus answered by telling them that he had spent three years training his disciples to carry out his plan to reach the world with the gospel. He said, “I have left behind eleven faithful men who will declare my message and express my love. These faithful men will build my church.” Then Michael asked: “What if these men fail? What then?” Then Jesus thought for a moment and said, “I have not other plan.”
By our baptism, we are called to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world. We are being sent to “launch into the deep” and to bring in our catch to the Lord. These are challenging days that the Gospel should be spread. What of too much evil in our society; of too much materialism in our live. But we should not lose heart. Jesus is telling us: “do not be afraid, henceforth, you shall catching men.” Proclaim the gospel. This is Jesus’ plan for the church. For you and for me and he has no other plan.
Relative to the earlier questions and issues on the purpose of a church in connection with this verse, Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” It reminds me of the Mission Statement of the Episcopal that states, “The purpose of the existence of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God; to baptize, teach and nurture new believers; to respond to human needs by a loving service; to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation; and to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” This is crafted for what is known as the Five Marks of Mission which members of the Anglican Communion premise their mission thrusts.
Let us pray.
Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation; that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.**