I’m sure Saint Andrew was a really good fisherman. He had accumulated a lifetime of hard-earned experience and raw instinct, working the shores of the Sea of Galilee each and every day. His father was a fisherman himself, and surely taught Andrew and his brother Peter everything they knew. Since the day he was born, it was more or less decided: Andrew would be a fisherman. He would work the family business. Case closed.
Andrew was good at his job. He was productive. He was successful. He was useful to his family and friends.
And yet, if that was all Andrew was interested in… being productive, successful, and useful, then he would have had no motivation to leave that old life. All of that would have been enough for him.
Evidently it wasn’t. Because the Lord stepped right into Andrew’s life — Right in the middle of the work day! Right in the very midst of his productivity, his success, his usefulness:
As Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea
I mean they were literally in the process of casting their nets. Peter and Andrew weren’t on their lunch-break. They weren’t standing idle around the water-cooler griping about their job. No, they were actively doing their job, and doing it well, mind you! — and it was precisely there, in the midst of their daily labor — their daily expertise — that Christ proposes a brand new, totally unexpected position for Andrew and his brother, a position they were completely unqualified for:
Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.
This invitation came with no job description. Andrew knew how to catch fish. He had no idea how to catch men. Did he even know what Jesus meant, I wonder? But as we hear:
At once they left their nets and followed him.
Andrew freely dropped his career. He dropped all that made him productive and successful in the eyes of the world — in order to follow this amazing person who captured his imagination, who tugged at the deepest roots of his soul — Jesus the Lord.
I know in my life, it was hard to let go of my career as a graphic designer and go off to seminary because… well… in many ways art had defined me up to that point in my life. It was what made me productive, successful, and useful. I was good at what I did! And plus… I enjoyed my work!
Sometimes when someone gives their life away to the Lord… especially in the form of a religious vocation like the priesthood or religious life, we kind of assume— perhaps unconsciously — that their old life, their old career must not have worked out so great.
But take a visit to the seminary or any religious community and you’ll find that these places are full of Saint Andrews — full of people who were excellent at their former careers. But they left it all to follow after Jesus. They left it all to seek after their truest identity in the Lord.
It’s easier just to assume that if we’re good at something, then that must be God’s will for our life. Not so fast! I’m not signing up for the priesthood because I think I’ll be good at it. God forbid. I know I can’t do it without His constant help and grace. I hope and pray that the gifts I’ve been given will be helpful in ministry, but it’s not a matter of assessing the probability of success. Mother Teresa famously said: “We’re not called to be successful. We’re called to be faithful.”
Bottom line, I’ve heard a call from the Lord. And I don’t know how it’ll work out. Like Andrew, I still don’t fully understand what it means to be a “fisher of men” — but I know the person who called me is faithful, is trustworthy, is good and loving. And that’s all that really matters.
I think when Andrew decided to drop his nets and follow Christ, he saw that his life was not defined by what he could do well… how productive he would be. Andrew recognized that the only life worth living is one lived out in relationship with Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God. It’s Jesus the Lord who defined Andrew… not his work. And the same is true for us today.