Fr. Alberto Barattero, IVE
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
When I was a child I wanted to go with my father to fish, and my father always said, “when you are twelve I will take you fishing”. So, when I was twelve years old I was happy because I could fish with my father, and this day came.
The night before, my father and I began to prepare all the things we needed to fish. My father had more than one rod, so I took one of them and my father said “this one doesn’t work” so I asked him why. He explained to me the different types of fish and places to fish. Thus he explained to me that for a particular fish you need a special rod and special kind of bait and for other fish another type of rod was needed, etc. He explained to me a lot of things a fishermen must consider in order to be successful.
The same reality applies to our life as priests.
Priests, as Christ says in today’s Gospel, are fishers of men. As a fisher of fish must take into consideration what he is going to catch and how to effectively catch it, so a fisher of men must consider a lot of things if he wants to be a successful fisherman. That’s why I want you to consider two things (there are a lot of things we must consider if we want to be goods fishers of men but, I cannot say all in one homily): first to know the world or better to know and to discern the current situation of the world and second to find solutions.
1. To know and discern the world
To be a fisher of men means to transform people’s life or to gain people for Christ. But, we cannot transform people’s life if we don’t know it. For that I said we must know the current situation of the world.
For us it is very important not to settle with a superficial knowledge of the world, we should work in order to have a deep knowledge of our society: to know the sociocultural circumstances, the real problems of our society, the situation of the people in the place we are working, etc.
In that respect, John Paul II says: “For our part we must therefore seek to be as open as possible to light from on high from the Holy Spirit, in order to discover the tendencies of contemporary society, recognize the deepest spiritual needs” (PDV, 5).
But, this knowledge is in order to make a proper discernment. We need to be able to discern what the real problems of our society are. What is the atmosphere like where the souls, who God entrusts to us, live? In short, we need to discover what is good and what is bad in our society according to the Gospel in order to help the people.
We can say that when the priest is not interested in the problems of his society or the problems of souls who God entrusts to him; when he doesn’t understand people and the problems of his society; when he doesn’t worry about questions which people ask about their life; that he is not truly interested in souls. He is more interested in his own problems than problems of his people and for that he will never be a fisher of men.
“The Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel so that in a language intelligible to every generation, […] We must therefore recognize and understand the world in which we live, its expectations, its longings and its often dramatic characteristics” (GS, 4).
2. To find solutions
And because of that I said in second place we must find solutions. It is our duty to figure out the problems of our people using the light of the Gospel. Why? Because the light of the Gospel, “can respond to the perennial questions which people ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other” (GS, 4).
That’s why our solutions are not found in human strengths but in supernatural strengths. Our solutions are found in Jesus, since only Jesus can give a true response to the question of men and only Jesus can figure out the real problems of men.
We must discern and find solutions in order to solve the most important problem or the most important goal people have on earth: to save their soul. If we simply help people to have a better life on earth with more comfort, health, peace, etc. it is ok and it is a very good job, but that sort of work does not make us true fishers of men.
Being a minister or fisher of men means conquering souls for Christ or to help people achieve the salvation Christ brought them. “Indeed,” says St. John Paul II, “the priest, by virtue of the consecration which he receives in the sacrament of orders, is sent forth by the Father through the mediation of Jesus Christ, to whom he is configured in a special way as head and shepherd of his people, in order to live and work by the power of the Holy Spirit in service of the Church and for the salvation of the world” (PDV, 12).
In this way, in order to find solutions, the fisher of men must be at the service of the people of God and must draw people to Christ for their salvation: this is what it means to be Christ’s true fishermen.
I want to conclude with the example of Saint John Bosco. He was a great fisher of men. As you know he had a great apostolic zeal for young people. In fact, whenever he bumped into a young man on the streets he immediately began to talk with him in order to gain his trust and then to talk to him about Christ. Or, when he saw guys playing on the street, he went to meet them and said: “Hello! I want to play with you. Who is winning? Who is losing?” and in doing such things he fished a lot of souls for Christ.
Miguel Rúa – one of the firsts disciples of Saint John Bosco – relates that once, Saint John Bosco saw a group of guys and called them and said: “I have a box of cookies, the one who catches me will gain it” and began to run. When one finally caught him, he said: “Ok, I will give you my cookies, but first you have to listen to me”. Then Don Bosco began to teach the boys about the Catechism and then he invited them to the Oratory. Finally, he brought them to Christ.