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Bible Reflections View Comments

Fishing Through the Night
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, January 26, 2014
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My vacation last fall took me to the Shetland Islands, set in the middle of the North Sea, halfway between Scotland and Norway. At the latitude of sixty degrees north, they are close enough to the Arctic Circle that they have nearly 24 hours of daylight in the summer and almost 20 hours of darkness in the winter. It’s not surprising that the biggest fire festival in Europe is held there on the last Tuesday in January. Up Helly Aa is a late-Victorian celebration, but it reaches back to the island’s Viking heritage for its inspiration. It lights up a long, dark winter with fire, music, food, and drink.

Light in the darkness is one of the primary metaphors for belief, for love, for God. We know all too well how easy it is to get caught up in our problems. And many of those problems are heavy indeed: serious illness, the death of loved ones, financial troubles, the state of our world. But if we dwell only in this terrible darkness, we will be utterly consumed by it.

In our first reading today, the prophet Isaiah proclaims: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” We might recognize this reading as the first reading at Midnight Mass on Christmas. Matthew reminds us the prophet Isaiah referred to the people of Galilee as those dwelling in darkness.

Jesus calls the first Galilean fishermen to leave their boats and nets and follow him. We’ve become so familiar with the idea that the first apostles were fishermen that we might miss the reality.

It’s easy to romanticize the life of a first-century fisherman. Most of us think of fishing as a leisure activity, flyfishing for trout or sitting in a boat on a lake waiting for the fish to bite and napping if they don’t.

People who fish for a living, whether in the first or the twenty-first century, know that it’s a difficult and dangerous business. Before nylon nets, fishing needed to be done at night so the fish couldn’t see the nets. Sudden storms could easily overtake boats and their crews in the darkness. Daylight hours were spent cleaning and drying the fish, hauling the catch to market and mending torn nets. It was hard, physical work, and many people had few occupational choices. They fished because their fathers and grandfathers fished before them.

We might think that our lives are worlds removed from the time of Jesus. But work is work. And no matter what we do or how many choices we have in what we do to earn our daily bread, the day-to-day experience is going to have ups and downs, periods of great satisfaction and dry spells of boredom and frustration. I suspect it was the same for those first-century fishermen. We think of them as being dedicated to their work, their nets, their father and coworkers. But maybe at the time Jesus came along the beach, they were having a bad day and were eager for a change. Only later did they discover for what they had traded in their nets to embrace. It may have seemed like a lark at first, but by the time Jesus was crucified, they knew that their new life had its share of darkness as well.

At different times in our lives, we might think the disciples were crazy to leave behind financial security. At other times, we think they’d be crazy not to follow the Lord’s call. Then it dawns on us that the Lord calls us in much the same manner. One thing is certain in all of this: God chooses to call us. It’s our choice to hear and to follow.


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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

Life's Great Questions

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Blessed Junipero Serra
This Franciscan friar was instrumental in founding many of California’s mission churches.

Happy Birthday
May this birthday mark the beginning of new and exciting adventures!

Sts. Peter and Paul
Honored both separately and together, these apostles were probably martyred during the reign of the emperor Nero.

Wedding
Help the bride and groom see their love as a mirror of God’s love.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help
God gave Mary to us as a help in our quest for holiness.




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