Called to Be Fishers of Men

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Bishop Rhoades Visits Notre Dame Priests and Brothers on Feast of St. Andrew

The following homily was delivered by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during Mass on the Feast of St. Andrew, Nov. 30, in the chapel of Corby Hall at the University of Notre Dame:

The Church honors and commemorates the Twelve Apostles individually or in pairs on particular days throughout the year with the liturgical rank of feasts, and not just as memorials. This highlights the importance of the original band of Jesus’ disciples whom He chose and sent as apostles. They became shepherds to watch over and protect His people, to lead the Church in His name. The Lord built His Church on this apostolic foundation in order for it to stand firm in the truth of the Gospel and to be strengthened in holiness through the sacraments. 

Today we celebrate the feast of one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter. We heard in the Gospel today of the call of these two brothers, along with two other brothers, James and John, while they were doing their work as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus said to them: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately, they left their nets and followed Him. This is a simple yet profound event. These were hard-working men, dedicated to their humble profession. Jesus saw something in these four fishermen that attracted His attention as He was beginning His public ministry and inaugurating God’s Kingdom. Jesus saw their simple fidelity to their work and to their families for whom they provided. 

Jesus wasn’t looking for the most educated or well-to-do to be His first disciples. Jesus didn’t call them to any particular teaching or ideology, to any school of philosophy or political party, to any specific project or undertaking. He called them to His own person. “Come after me,” Jesus said to them. Come, join me; follow me. And they did so at once, immediately. This is something for us to ponder. What was it that inspired these fishermen to leave everything to follow after Jesus? Perhaps it was Jesus’ voice and the way He spoke with authority. Or maybe it was His gaze or His manner of presence. Certainly, they saw His authenticity. Maybe they had earlier heard Him preaching; we don’t know. It was surely a movement of grace that they responded to when they left their nets behind to join Jesus as His first disciples. They must have had a spirit of adventure to leave everything behind to follow Jesus. 

Andrew, Peter, James, and John didn’t follow Jesus because their lives were miserable – they probably had a good, though simple, life. But when they saw and heard Jesus call them, they believed there could be something more, something greater, more challenging, and more daring if they followed this itinerant rabbi. They must have seen in Him real truth and authentic love. Why else would they leave behind their