Today’s Gospel is one of my favorites, because, not only is it a great story, but within this story are important themes about trust, vulnerability – and what I call holy curiosity.
Throughout the journey of our lives we each come to different forks in the road when Jesus is asking us to come and follow him to help him build the kingdom of God – that place we long for where the hungry and the thirsty receive food and drink, where strangers are welcomed and included, where the sick receive the care that they need and those in prison are visited – their full humanity seen. And to this invitation we get to answer: Yes, No, or Not Yet.
So in today’s Gospel story, Jesus is traveling to Galilee seeking out people who could help him build the kingdom of God. As he passes by the Sea of Galilee he sees Simon and Andrew, who are fishermen, and they’re casting their nets out into the sea. Jesus says to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
So there’s the direct invitation. Will Simon and Andrew answer Yes, No, or Not Yet? I imagine these two brothers in the rhythm of their lives, casting nets out into the sea to catch fish which they will sell to the marketplace. Fishing is their livelihood. It’s how they support their families. They may have learned this trade from their father or a grandfather, and this is what they are familiar with doing everyday.
And now, in this new moment in time, Jesus invites them to leave this work to learn a different kind of fishing. Yes, No, or Not Yet? So what does saying Yes require? For one, it requires a certain amount of trust in Jesus to take the risk of being vulnerable and leaving their nets in order to go into something that is unknown. It would also take what I like to call holy curiosity – the grace to respond to God’s invitation because you’re curious to see where God will lead you next. And what God might accomplish through you.
Spiritual writer Richard Rohr has said: “The opposite of faith is not doubt; the opposite of faith is control.” And so I am moved by the trust which Simon and Andrew have in Jesus to abandon their nets and let go of their controlled, familiar lives which they have been living and to get curious about what fishing for people could be all about.
Next, Jesus calls out to James and his brother John who are in another boat mending their nets. And they too choose to let go of their boat and their nets to follow Jesus. Now perhaps at this moment they’re thinking, we’re just going to get a day off work. We’ll be back to fishing tomorrow. Or perhaps they already get a glimpse of living life for something larger than themselves.
Dorothy Day once said: “The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us.” That inner revolution often begins with our response to a new invitation.
For the past 10 years I have been part of the Dolores Mission faith community in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, California. Three weeks after I moved into this community, a young man by the name of Jonathan, was tragically gunned down by a rival gang near a park where I live. Dolores Mission organized an outdoor Mass on the spot where Jonathan had been killed to be a force for good, to claim this spot as holy ground and to accompany Jonathan’s grieving friends and family members. I remember some of the elder women of our community, Esperanza, Rita, Lourdes, Yolanda, who were blessing the palms of his friends’ hands during the sign of peace, offering consolation.
A week later the church organized another outdoor Mass a few blocks away across into the rival gang territory. I said yes to going, but then there was this angry young man in this Mass who was mad-dogging the priest saying the Mass and staring all of us down. And suddenly I got scared and my Yes was quickly turning into a Not Yet.
“Why are we here?!?!” I asked incredulously as I leaned towards Rosa Campos, another one of the wisdom women in our community who helped Father Greg Boyle get Homeboy Industries started 30 years ago. Serenely she answered me in Spanish, “Porque todos son nuestros hijos, los que son matados y los que matan.” (Because they’re all our children – those that get killed and those that kill.)
In that moment, Rosa sparked the revolution in my heart, and I suddenly began to say a deeper Yes to Jesus’ original program of seeing everyone through God’s eyes – to see that angry young man with the eyes of kinship, with my desire for mutual healing, no separation between us, all of us part of the same human family.
So here we are in 2018, the start of a new year – filled with new possibilities for how God wants work in our lives. How is God inviting me and how is God inviting you to lay down the familiar routine of mending the nets you’ve been mending for years in order to follow Jesus to a new place in your heart? Says Jesuit Father James Martin, “Whatever God brings will be more than you imagine.”
Jesus invites Simon, Andrew, James, John and each one of us to be fishers of people. Fishers of all men, and all women, and all children. As Catholics and Christians we are still striving to live into this invitation to see ourselves in relationship with all human beings. No one outside our circle of concern.
Father Greg writes in his new book Barking to the Choir: “Love and more love. It’s what’s left when the margins get erased. Choosing to be fearless for each other so we can find our true height in love.”
This means believing that we are good enough for God, similar to the way Simon, Andrew, James and John, ordinary fishermen, believed that they were good enough for Jesus. So in 2018 discover your true height in love and get curious about how God wants to work in your life this year – better than you can imagine.
Ellie Hidalgo serves as the pastoral associate for Dolores Mission Catholic Church and School, a Jesuit parish in Boyle Heights, just east of downtown Los Angeles. The parish is known for its restorative justice ministries, including special liturgies and support groups for families who have lost loved ones to homicide and for families with loved ones in prison. It is also the home-base parish of Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation and reentry program in the world. Dolores Mission School, TK-8th grades, opens the doors of opportunity to low-income, inner-city students of largely immigrant families from Mexico and Central America. Many will be the first in their families to graduate high school and college.
Ms. Hidalgo also teaches classes and workshops in Hand in Hand Parenting. She believes that working with parents to build and sustain a life-long connection with their children is a key element in families breaking the cycle of addictions, domestic violence and gang violence in the neighborhood. The parish also is active in the work of faith-based community organizing through LA Voice – PICO to address issues of societal injustice.
Previously, Ms. Hidalgo served as a staff writer for The Tidings Catholic Newspaper writing news and feature stories about Hispanic ministry, restorative justice, youth ministry, and immigration reform. Her articles frequently appeared at Catholic News Service, and she also wrote for the website Busted Halo.
Ms. Hidalgo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia) and a Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles). She was commissioned as a pastoral associate for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2013.
Ms. Hidalgo is the first of five children born to Cuban immigrant parents and a proud aunt to eight nieces and nephews and numerous godchildren.