Last summer, I had the chance to hang out with one of the families from our parish, and their house happens to be perched on a hill right next to a beautiful creek. After dinner, we decided to go down to the water and hang out on their dock — we watched the sunset, sipped on drinks, and enjoyed the beautiful evening.
While we relaxed there on the dock, their teenaged son decided to get out his little casting net, and he started to throw the net off the side of the dock to see what he might catch.
And right away, he started hauling in all sorts of really cool critters from the creek. He caught ghost shrimp. He caught several different species of fish… The most unique being a 12 inch garfish which looked like a living dinosaur!
IT WAS SO AWESOME. We were out there for a couple of hours at least, just casting the net over and over again.
That evening is easily one of my favorite memories from that entire summer — because it was SO MUCH FUN SEEING WHAT CAME UP OUT OF THE WATER NEXT… It was like an adventure — It was exciting. Exhilarating. Every single time we looked down into that net, it was a surprise to see something new and mysterious flapping around.
All we had to do was cast the net…
Which brings me to this weekend’s Gospel:
Simon and Andrew, James and John had also been busy casting their nets when Jesus shows up out of the blue and says: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
From now on, Jesus says: You’ll be casting your nets to try and catch people! Human souls! — You’ll catch them with the Father’s love! With His mercy! With deep peace and joy! With preaching! With miracles, signs and wonders! From now on, you’ll be bringing in a tremendous catch — fish of all kinds — for the Kingdom of Heaven!
Now, I doubt Jesus meant for this totally new way of fishing — this fishing for souls — to be awkward, burdensome, or something that the disciples would dread doing…
No — I think Jesus actually meant this “fishing for men” to be much more like that summer evening I spent on the dock:
A thrilling adventure — filled with surprises and excitement for them. In many ways, it would be a JOYFUL and BEAUTIFUL experience to see so many people come alive when they heard the Good News for the first time. It would be a thrill for them to have the opportunity to tell people that their lives do have meaning, that there is such a thing as TRUTH… that God is WITH them and that He offers them REAL FORGIVENESS…
Look at all the sorts of souls those first disciples pulled in for the Kingdom!
Rich and poor.
Popular and outcast.
Sick and healthy.
Wandering and lost.
Accepted and rejected.
Old and young.
All they had to do was cast the net… to see what they might catch.
That was the situation of the early Church.
And it’s our situation today.
Because the reality is, y’all: The net is now in our hands. In fact, you — YES YOU — are holding the net right this second.
Jesus has called you. He has invited you to follow him. And that means he also says to you and me both: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
This task of “evangelization” — of spreading the Gospel — is not just for priests to do. It’s not just for the experts… the professional Catholic speakers who are getting paid to do that sort of thing.
No — actually, the mission of sharing and spreading the Gospel is for ALL disciples of the Lord to carry out in their own unique way, in their own particular place…
Maybe that freaks you out. Maybe that is absolutely terrifying.
If so, don’t worry. Here’s a little jolt of confidence for you: I KNOW you can share the Gospel, because YOU ARE fishers of souls!
Lets go ahead and say that together:
“I can share the Gospel!” — “I am a fisher of souls!”
But it gets better, because today, I’m going to equip you with a simple way of sharing the Gospel — I’m going to give you 7 little steps that will help you just to cast your net to see what and “who” you might catch!
I am taking these steps from an absolutely fantastic talk by Jeff Cavins, entitled: “How to Spread the Gospel.” It’s an hour long talk available for free on YouTube — and it’s really worth watching in full when you get home. But I’m going to break his points down and simplify them for you now. So here it goes:
- God loves you and has an amazing plan for your life.
- Sin has wrecked this plan.
- Jesus Christ paid the price for your sin and died for you.
- Repent and believe! — The Catechism says that repentance is a “radical reorientation of your life to God.”
- Be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit — Have your sins forgiven. Be confirmed in the Spirit. Receive God’s gifts He has prepared for you!
- Continue to be a part of His Body, the Church — Grow and flourish in God’s family! — continually go deeper in your relationship with Him and with others in the community of faith.
- Go make other disciples — Go tell somebody else! Invite someone new. We can’t keep this to ourselves!
Now I’m obviously NOT telling you to go write these steps down and then go read them word for word to random people over at Panera…
No…As Jeff Cavins says, there’s a technical theological term for that, and it’s called “being a weirdo.”
No, what I’m saying is that every single one of us should look for opportunities to work these very basic nuggets of truth into ordinary conversations that we have. It shouldn’t be forced or weird.
It should flow from who you are as a disciple of Jesus!
You may only get to one or two… maybe three of these points… Maybe you only get to the first and most important one: “God loves you and He has an amazing plan for you.”
One thing to remember is this: This is not about presenting an argument of apologetics or delivering a theological treatise to this person… This is only about casting your net…
Imagine this scenario for instance:
You’re talking with a friend or relative, and they tell you about a situation they are really really struggling with. And because you love them, you might say something along these lines: “I know you’re hurting — I know how hard this is — but can I just share something with you? I want you to know that God loves you… right now… and He has a plan for your life.”
That simple word — that little kernel of truth — could change their life forever! And all it took was you asking: “Can I share something with you? Do you mind if I tell you what I believe?…God really does love you.”
Maybe that sounds too simple? Maybe you’re like “THAT WON’T WORK, FR ANTHONY…”
Well, here’s the truth — It’s not up to you to make the message work!
That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.
As Jeff Cavins points out in his talk, there are three separate times in the New Testament where we hear that “the Holy Spirit confirmed the message.”
That’s super important: The Holy Spirit will confirm and make the message real for that person.
One of the biggest fears that keeps us from sharing the Good News, from casting our nets is when we think to ourselves: “Well who the heck am I? I can’t make a difference in this person’s life!”
Or maybe we even judge the person and think to ourselves: “They’re wayyyy too big of a sinner. They’re beyond God’s help! What’s the point of sharing the Gospel with them? I can’t change their mind… I can’t convert their heart!”
…And that is absolutely TRUE… YOU can’t change their hearts!
But God can!
The Holy Spirit is always on the move. He is an EXPERT at softening people’s hearts and changing people’s minds. He will convict. He will invite and prompt and prod and stir up things in that person’s heart…
Who knows what sorts of souls we would catch if we all just became a little more willing to take a holy risk — to make a bold step in faith — and share the basic truth of the Gospel with folks.
It is sure to be surprising. It is sure to be an adventure.
It will be messy, yes… because the souls we will catch are always broken, always wounded, and always sinful just like we are!
But it is also sure to be beautiful, exhilarating, and fulfilling.
So that’s your challenge this week — Try this out for yourself.
Go and cast your net somewhere! — I dare you!
Tell someone that God loves them and has an amazing plan for their life. Tell them that yes… sin has wrecked that plan…but Jesus paid the price to save them. And now He’s inviting them to a radical reorientation of their life back to Him.
The pressure is not on you. It’s all on God.
So go ahead, and be a fisher of men!