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    A View from the Pew

    Cast Wide the Net 

    Cast Wide the Net


    If you visit a working waterfront like New Bedford or Gloucester, watching the labor of the fishermen who face the most brutal conditions to put salmon, sword and tuna on our plates can daunt the heartiest of people. Against the odds of weather, legal limitations and cultural discrimination, fishermen love their life at sea. They live to fish.


    Consider why Jesus invited fishermen into his public ministry. Not faint of heart, these early followers of Jesus. If they looked anything like the fishermen on working waterfronts, their hands were worn and roughened by nets, their skin thick and weathered from the brunt of brutal weather conditions and their bodies ached from hauling tons of fish from boats that they rowed with arms as thick as tree trunks.


    Why did Jesus ask fishermen into ministry? Maybe Jesus understood that good fishermen know that a moment hesitated means a lost catch. Waiting to act results in an empty net. The work requires attention, rigor and persistent effort. No casting, no catch.


    I thought a lot about casting a wide net as I returned to Emmanuel College for another semester of pastoral music ministry this morning following the Christmas break. School begins tomorrow for the students who attend the plethora of colleges on the Fenway. Because students return all day today, I anticipated a small group. To my great surprise, the Chapel filled with students at the 11am Mass.


    Emmanuel College casts a wide net and draws from its consortium of The Colleges of the Fenway. Students from MCP, Wentworth, Wheelock, Simmons, Northeastern, Berkley, Harvard and other like institutions join Emmanuel students for Sunday worship in the morning and at 8pm on Sunday night. The group that gathers on Sunday represents a wide diversity of hopes, dreams, pursuits, backgrounds, culture and many levels of faith and reason. What draws them in?


    Whenever I ask “What brings you?” to students, the answers resonate with a familiar mantra. Great preaching, welcoming hospitality and good liturgical music. The warm outreach from the staff members and interns in Emmanuel’s Campus Ministry would draw a fish out of water. Each week, the homily can be best described as riveting. And my small but pristine ensemble of musicians who create beautiful music with me seems to draw even the most reluctant singer into hearty assembly song.  


    When I think about Jesus inviting his fisher-disciples to cast wide the net to draw people into God’s realm, that requires constant effort on the part of ecclesial ministers, both lay and ordained. Is the homily always relevant to the concerns, questions and issues of our people? Does the music speak to their hearts? How do we welcome the stranger, the inquirers, and the people on the periphery in our churches? Casting the net wide means understanding the heart’s desire within the call of ministry and responding passionately and loving life within that particular call – to everyone, without exception. Casting the net wide means never really knowing what you catch. We might not like the catch of the day; it may be odd, look ugly, smell bad, cause trouble, change us. Does that prevent us from going fishing?


    Here are some questions that I asked myself today:


    • ·       Do I risk changing my course into a direction that may take me into uncertain waters? If not, why not?
    • ·      
    • ·       Do I hesitate before I respond to the call of the Gospel? How do I follow Jesus?



    Happy fishing.