“This Advent, our Advent, is a time of creation. God’s spirit abides in us—brooding over our waters—shaping and forming us, being formed and shaped by us. God alone knows what we shall become. God has visited us with grace and favor. Are we ready to become Light?”—Caryll Houselander, woodcarver and mystic
“As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers … And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately, they left their nets and followed him”.—Matthew 4: 18-20
There is a church near my house called “Fisherman of Men Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc.” The insistently masculine language always makes me laugh. It’s as if the church-namers knew that the narrow image of a patriarchal God was on its way out and so over- compensate. Or to paraphrase Shakespeare, “Me thinks they doth protest too much.”
Paradoxically, I find this invitation from Jesus to Peter and Andrew, then James and John, to be distinctly subversive of patriarchy. Jesus woos them like a lover. He seduces them into leaving their fathers’ houses, like young women leaving home to join the home of their husband’s family.
These men respond to Jesus as if they are in love. There is no cognitive decision making. They fall in love. They drop their nets—representing their known world. They follow, like a lover after her beloved. They have eyes only for him.
When were you last in love?
Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s Ad……vent.
With gratitude to Pax Christi USA where some of these reflections first appeared in print..
The midpoint of Mark’s narrative poses two questions, aimed both at the disciples in, and the readers of, the story:
“Do you not yet understand?” (Mk 8:21).
“Who do you say that I am?” (8:29a).
The latter provokes what I call the “confessional crisis” (8:30-33), which this Sunday’s reading inexplicably jumps into the middle of (we get the whole text on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, Sept 13th). This is followed by Jesus’ second call to discipleship (8:34ff), deepening the journey begun in 1:16-20.
These difficult episodes together represent the fulcrum upon which the whole gospel balances. Mark’s thesis is most clearly revealed here: Discipleship is not about theological orthodoxy but about the Way of the cross. It would seem that our churches do “not yet understand” this!
We pick up the thread in the first of three “portents,” in which Jesus speaks of his impending arrest, trial and execution by the authorities (8:31; see 9:31 and 10:33f). This “reality check” has been provoked by Peter’s identification of Jesus as “Messiah” (8:29). To our chagrin, it is immediately silenced by Jesus (8:30), as if Peter were just another demon trying to “name” Jesus (see 1:25; 3:12)! Then, with the phrase “Jesus began to teach them that it was necessary that the Human One must suffer,” the story departs in a new and troubling direction (8:31).
By “necessity” Mark means that those who pursue Jubilary justice will inevitably clash with the Powers. Jesus is serving notice that he will not enter Jerusalem as a triumphant military leader, but instead be executed by the authorities. This subverts the expected “Messianic script,” replacing it with what we might call a “prophetic script.” At key points in the second half of the gospel Mark will appeal to this script: John followed it, so will Jesus (9:12f), and so must faithful disciples (13:9-13).
Nice to have a note from Dublin psychotherapist Coinneach Shanks on the symbolism of fish. This in response to my Ireland photo (right) of the Tram Chowder in Howth with its “Fish is Life” slogan.
Coinneach blogs at Psychotherapy in Dublin and has some beautiful photos and lovely reflections on the deeper symbolism of our everyday world. Here’s part of his comment on the symbolism of fish:
Fish are water symbols and are as the vendor correctly suggests, symbols of life. Fish and reproduction are well known companions. They make many, many eggs and are considered almost universally as prosperous and fertile. But Howth is a fishing place and the myths of casting the net and hauling fish from the depths are also cross cultural. Peter was the Fisher of Men, catching the souls for conversion and thus saving them from damnation. For psychoanalysts – well, we fish all the time. We are looking for material from the unconscious, which can be compared to the sea. By allowing spontaneous forces to operate, hidden material of great value may be brought to the surface.