Who is a “fisher of people”? What do they do? How?

5th Sunday Ordinary Time, year C | Lk 5:1-11

Since I grew up loving to fish, the Gospel today, in which Jesus invites the fishers Peter, James and John to leave their literal nets behind, follow him and become “fishers of people”, has always appealed to me. The phrase “fishers of people” has always puzzled me. Wha, did Jesus mean by it? What project was he actually inviting Peter, James and John to be a part of? The readings today help us to answer the following questions. Who is a “fisher of people”? What do they do? How do they do it?

First, who is a “fisher of people”? Often we understand that a fisher of people is someone who is sent out beyond the confines of the Church in order to get people to believe what we believe. In other words, a fisher of people is someone who catches converts. Although this is part of the picture, when we understand the connotation that “fishers of people” had in the Old Testament, we can develop a richer view of what Jesus meant by the phrase. In the book of Jeremiah (16:16-18) the imagery of “fishers of people” is used in the context of God’s judgement against his own people, Israel. “Fishers of people” were sent out to haul people in so that God could judge them. Fishers of people are agents of judgement. They call people to make a choice. Will they choose to follow God’s path or not? Will they follow God’s commandment or not. So, who is a fisher of people? This is someone who, by their words and very way of life, reminds people that because judgement is coming soon, all must make a simple yet urgent choice: will they follow God’s way or not?

Praise the Lord

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