As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
(Mark 1:16-20, from the Gospel for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time)
Recently, my classmate Br. Dennis and I flew down to the UC San Diego Newman Center at the invitation of our brother, Fr. John Paul Forte. Our novices visit them every year on the “southern tour” (as they are doing now) and offer reflections on their discernment journeys at the Masses. Fr. John Paul felt it would be beneficial for the Newman Center community to hear from some of us who have already been in the Order for a few years to describe our lives now (Br. Dennis & I entered the Order in the summer of 2010, and are now students at St. Albert's). What is our life like, now that we have abandoned our nets? What has changed over the years? What supports do we have?
For myself -- and I feel for many of my brother Dominicans -- that first moment of abandoning our nets to follow Jesus turns out -- in hindsight -- to have been rather easy. We really don’t know what we’re in for when we receive the habit. The image, the idea, the fantasy of religious life is one thing, the reality is often much more complicated. We give up much of our autonomy, we are thrust into a community of men that we don't personally choose, and we have to adapt suddenly to an entirely new daily schedule. After the first year, we begin studies in earnest and take on more ministry duties, as well as chores around the house. The ongoing challenge is to persevere in following Him our Lord after the initial excitement wears off, after we lose the emotional high we feel when we first receive the habit. We must base our vocation on prayer and God’s active grace in our lives. Our energies fade, our willpower at time fades, but God’s grace will continue to support us all unfailingly. When we forget that, we no longer live up to our call as friars preachers and simply become a community of men.
All four of the men that Jesus called that day at the shoreline went back to fishing after Jesus’ death. Unsure of what to do, all of them pick up their abandoned nets once again and headed back out to sea. Only by God’s grace did they recognize the risen Christ, and abandon their nets to once again become fishers of men. We must always remember to do the same.
Saints Peter, Andrew, James & John, pray for us!