As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.
He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets.
He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.
Mending nets is hard.
Mending nets take time.
Cardinal Robert Sarah is a member of the Roman Curia and Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. I have been reading through parts of his book, The Day is Far Spent. In it Sarah lays out a detailed list of challenges facing the Church today. Needless to say, it’s a long list. He presents the issues with detail and clarity. He shows where the nets are torn. What I find missing is that he doesn’t invest an equal amount of time saying how we can mend the nets.
There is a lot of talk in Catholic land about what is wrong. That’s important. If you’re going to cure something that is sick, you need a proper diagnosis first.
What comes next?
There are a number of tendencies. One is to be the spiritual culture warrior. Let’s go out, identify the enemy and fight them. Understand, this is tactic that is absolutely necessary today. There are forces that are aimed at destroying our religious liberties and hurting the Church. They need to be countered. However, this is a tactic, not a long term strategy. It is not an effective and comprehensive program for the long run.
A second tactic is to run away and hide. 30 years ago, Orthodox Father Alexander Schmemann expressed an exasperation with people he was spiritually guiding. They were developing a growing infatuation with monasticism among people. The problem was that they had no idea what living within a community, much less in a monastery, was really like. They were attracted to the “vaudeville” of monastic-community life.
Or we develop a fortress mentality. We wall ourselves within a Catholic cocoon. We only associate with people in the tribe. That feels safe. It doesn’t fulfill the Great Commission, “Go out – make disciples – baptize – teach them all that I told you.”
There’s a fourth way. That is to inoculate the culture and change it from the inside. It’s that whole “salt of the earth, light of the world, be like yeast in a loaf of bread” thing. To do that – first – we have to change on the inside.
Ross Douthat is an author and a columnist for the New York Times. He’s a former Pentecostal who converted to Catholicism. He has a blog and writes commentaries on religion in general, and on the Catholic Church specifically. I like his writing style. It’s pithy and punchy. He doesn’t mess around.
Ross said that, right now, the Church doesn’t need a “checklist of practices. Rather, what we need is an invitation to start from wherever we are, then take one step forward towards a greater rigor and a coherent way to marry faith and life.”
Leah Libresco, author of Building the Benedict Option, writes that “creating community” starts small. Here’s an example… At work, look at each encounter with a client, colleague, customer as if they were specifically sent to you by God. Be nice to them when they’re nice to you. If they’re not, throw a prayer at them while they’re walking away.
It’s not glamorous. Net mending is not glamorous. It’s tedious, slimy, smelly … and important. You need to mend nets before you try and fish with them. “Creating community throws you into the paths of others, giving you more chances to learn to love them – and to let them love you.”
Here’s a prayer from today’s Liturgy of the Hour:
All-powerful, ever-living God, direct our steps in the way of your love, so that our whole life may be fragrant with all we do in the name of Jesus, your beloved Son.
Here’s some homework:
- Say something nice to someone, or about someone today.
- Do one act of charity today. Try doing one that no one else sees.
- Do something nice for yourself today.
That’s a life that is fragrant. That’s mending nets.