Setting aside our nets

I’m excited that this year we follow Mark’s gospel for the lectionary cycle. Mark gives the stripped down, bare bones version of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection. He skips his childhood entirely, starting with Jesus’s adult ministry, and ends with a brief resurrection scene focused on the empty tomb. Reading Mark helps me to think about what’s essential, and what’s not, in living a Christian life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls the fishermen Simon, Andrew, James, and John as they mend their nets, telling them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mk. 1:17). Remarkable is their immediate response to Jesus: they don’t ask questions, but get up and go. Something in Jesus’ call must have been so compelling to lead them to leave their work behind, their entire livelihood behind, to follow that call. Our vocational calls can be like this; my own conversion to Catholicism felt like that kind of a call, one that did not “fit” my life as I understood it at the time, but where the call ended up being internally compelling, despite my initial resistance.

Mark’s inclusion of the mending of the nets also reminds us that Jesus can call while we are in the middle of trying to repair something else. One way to interpret the “mending of the nets” is to consider the efforts that we all diligently make as Christians to “fix” and “mend” those places in our lives that need repair. For example, we might start off the New Year trying to undo a bad habit. Or we might put effort in mending a broken relationship. These are all good efforts to make.

Yet Jesus’s call to these fishermen reminds us that Jesus calls us right where we are, as an unfinished, not-yet-fully-mended people, to go and to do His work in the world. We can be somewhat ragged at the seams, like a not-yet-mended net. Jesus still calls us to go and to preach the gospel by our words and by our lives. We don’t need to get every element of our lives fully in order to be of use to God. Instead, we can let go of those places in our lives that stand in the way of living out that call, and trust that God will give us what we need to do our work, whether as “fishers” of other human beings, or the many other ways God invites us to live out his call.