I have never mended a net. It seems like a tedious enterprise. As of now at least, there is no talk of the Dominican House of Studies entering into a net-mending apostolate, and for that I am grateful.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we’ll hear of a family of net-menders: Zebedee and his two sons, James and John. The common focus in this passage is centered on the sons who, without hesitation, follow Christ when He beckons them out of their boat and away from their father and trade to follow Him. Matthew’s account of the story is so brief that we can only speculate upon what motivated such a decision.
Surely there was a natural appeal that accompanied whatever supernatural attraction they felt to the Son of God’s invitation. Perhaps James and John were not keen on the idea of passing their lives mending and re-mending old nets. Perhaps it did not take much at all for these impulsive “Sons of Thunder,” as Jesus would later name them, to follow this mysterious Contemporary of theirs who promised a new and more exhilarating future.
But what shall we make of Zebedee? Is he merely a passive figure, sitting around while he watches his two filial partners literally jump ship? There is a temptation to think of Zebedee as more or less a stage prop: an object which James and John can renounce in order to follow Christ. But what if it was the Lord’s will for Zebedee to remain? Perhaps Zebedee had a vocation to follow the Lord in a different way than his sons: not as a fisher of men, but precisely as a fisher of fish. As St. Paul says, God arranges all the members of His body as He chooses. Unlike us, the Lord feels no societal pressure to treat everyone with an “equality” that robs them of their dignity as individuals who have been given unique and marvelous gifts for the benefit of many.
I wonder if St. John recalled his father’s decision to remain in the wood of the boat as he decided to remain under the wood of the Cross on Golgotha. Or did John’s mind burn with remembrance of his dad when the other apostles won their crowns of martyrdom while he remained to care for the Blessed Mother and teach through his writings and preaching? It is precisely in John’s remaining, as the Lord explains to Peter, that the beloved disciple fulfills the will of God.
Whether we stay where we are or go somewhere new with respect to locomotion, Jesus is always urging us to follow Him in spirit and truth. What shape that takes in the life of an individual Christian is the project of a life spent in contemplation and discernment.
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P., The Calling of St Andrew (used with permission)