Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick, MM, considers our call to simply "be" with Jesus and to extend this merciful presence in mission.
As a youth, every Saturday I would get on my bike with a fishing pole, peanut butter sandwich, and a dog biscuit for Bingo, our family pet, and go fishing in a small river near home. It was a time I looked forward to each week. On the edge of the river was a large rock where I sat and fished. I was in tune with the breeze, the water splashing against the rocks, the smells of nature as well as the quiet time away from the daily routine.
In my later years I reflected on this time on the rock near the river as being in communion with God and nature. It was also a contemplative time for me, but I would not have used the word contemplation as a youth.
We have a scene in today’s Gospel that may have some connection to our daily lives as Christians and followers of Jesus. The scene brings us to the Sea of Tiberias. The disciples had gathered by the sea after Jesus’ crucifixion. Simon Peter, in a rather direct manner, tells the other disciples that he is going fishing and they all proclaim that they will go fishing with him. Being by the sea and fishing had been the normal daily pattern for these disciples before they began following Jesus.
As in my early years as a youth, the disciples did not at first catch any fish. Yet, something else happened to them, which happens to many of us when we spend time by the sea or a river. I sincerely believe we become more reflective and contemplative. We become, like the disciples, connected to the earth and God’s creation. Isn’t this the journey and daily life of the people we serve in mission?
We are jolted and drawn into this Gospel setting when Peter exclaims, “It is the Lord!” Peter becomes alert, present and attentive. The energy is then turned to throwing the nets into the water and the catch is abundant.
When the disciples retuned to shore with this abundant catch, Jesus, in a very simple and direct manner, says, “Come and have breakfast.” Isn’t this a Christian, Gospel, and missionary charism? We have experienced over and over again the same words from the people we live among and share life with in mission to “come and be with me.” Come and share my meal. Come and share in my joys and struggles. Come and walk with me. Come and pray with me. Come and simply sit worth me; words are not necessary.
The people we live among and serve become our teachers. They continue to call us from the busy days of mission ministry to come and be with them. In my youth, fishing in the small river near my home on a large rock was not always about fishing, but about being in communion with everything around me. Like Peter – alert, attentive, and present. Come and be with me.
In my present mission ministry at the Maryknoll Society Center in Ossining, NY, the call to “come and be with me” is a central ministry in the care of our Elder Brothers and Priests. It is a partnership, for as I am alert, present, and attentive to my brothers, they also share their presence, ministry, and attentiveness to me. Today’s readings hold a simple yet profound message for us: the Lord tells us to slow down and simply “come and be with me.”
Photo, Sea of Galilee, available on Unsplash.