Readings (Year C):
Reflection: People or things?
Each moment of the day we make a choice: between people and things. Things, of course, are usually easier to deal with. Things don’t require emotional engagement. We don’t have to make eye contact with them. We don’t have to care about them or concern ourselves with how they feel. When it comes to things, we can disengage any time, walk away, have a cup of coffee, even forget them entirely.
But when it comes to people, that’s a different story. Engaging with people usually takes more time than we anticipate. We have to slow down, or speed up, to meet their pace. We have to listen, which means we must empty ourselves of our agenda, and be willing to be present for theirs.
People require our patience, our tenderness, and our compassion. When dealing with tasks or things, we can throw a tool across the room if frustration gets the better of us. We can’t do that with a frustrating person. Not without facing a lawsuit!
What does this have to do with that bunch of guys in a boat on the Sea of Tiberias? Well, after the resurrection, all the astonishments of those hours—after Jesus breathes Spirit on his friends and commissions them to forgive sins in his name—it seems the disciples decide to go fishing. Not surprising, perhaps: they’re fishermen, right?
But Jesus had been pretty clear about what he expected. For three years, he demonstrated what discipleship is about: preaching, teaching, healing. Because there’s a big wide world out there in desperate need of rescue. There’s really no time to waste. People around us are falling apart every day for want of a word of hope, consolation, mercy.
We sympathize with the disciples, of course. It had been a challenging three years, and an intensely traumatizing week. Fishing was something they could do with their eyes closed. So, when Peter says, “Hey guys, I’m going fishing,” they’re all ready to jump in the boat with him. Fishing used to be work. But after three years of following Jesus, fishing was a picnic.
And we know the story. They don’t catch anything until Jesus shows up. And after another happy reunion, Jesus takes Peter aside and reminds him what he originally signed up for. Peter used to fish for food; Jesus invites him to fish for people. Peter isn’t in this anymore to fill his own belly. He’s supposed to be casting his net for the lost, the least, and the last.
People or things? You and I are always tempted to push away the child, friend, or coworker who’s asking for our time. We want to favor the task, whether it’s making supper, or making a deadline. Jesus asks us to put people first. Because that big wide world out there could use a rescue. One precious person at a time.