There is something about the television programme, Deadliest Catch which fascinates me. Some of you may have seen it. It is a series on Discovery Channel which follows boats which go fishing around the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska. The fierce, black thunderous waves that crash against the side of the boats and sometimes go right over the deck and over the yellow clad deck hands who try to steady themselves on an already slippery surface, make this work deadly but eminently profitable. Less appealing to me is the squirming mass of assorted marine life that is thrust from the nets into the boat with the help of a few 21st century pullies only to be pushed into the hold, brought to port and exchanged for a lot of money. I am sure sea swells like these were never seen around Galilee but the dangers they present resemble the terror of the lives of too many people today.
In this time of pandemic, it seems to us that those menacing seas of the North Atlantic are swirling around us mercilessly on that slippery deck as we face the unimaginable. Some of our loved ones are sick, others, dead, buried in haste, and those mourning bereft of the rituals which have always given them comfort and support. Hospital staff with the marks of PPE etched on their foreheads and cheekbones, eyes sunken black with weariness; the pain of watching people struggling to breathe and not being able to help them. The pain of having to ask the question when not enough ventilators are available, who will benefit most from this intervention? And after long hours of work clearly seen in their tired and haggard faces they are asked to give up their leave because there is no one to take their place. It is easy to see the living out of the Good news in their lives.
What are we called to at this time of storm and slippery decks?
Many today feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the suffering that they hear about in detail every day and their powerlessness to help. What can we do? We have no medical training. Is there a possibility that we can widen the net and call to mind those indirectly involved whom we may be able to help. First of all, can those working in our hospitals in whatever capacity be supported by more than a clap? Are their worried families known to us? Can we support those who are suffering because they cannot attend the funeral of a loved one? Is anyone looking at the ‘complicated’ grief of those who lose loved ones at this particular time.
What about those who continue to live in pain because their surgery has had to be postponed? Do we think of refugees and asylum seekers who left their home countries in fear of their lives and are now again living that fear for their lives and the lives of their children. These are but a few examples of life in 2021. For many their life is as deadly as the fishermen and women searching the Bering Sea for Alaskan crab.
In today’s Gospel Jesus comes into Galilee at the beginning of his public ministry. He links himself with the preaching of John the Baptist by repeating John’s message, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; Repent and believe in the Good News.” The Good news he speaks of is that God is coming in a new way into the world and into the life of each one of us; the Good News that the God of love, mercy, justice, compassion, inclusion, healing has become human that we might have the opportunity to become Godly. Simon, Andrew, James and John did not hesitate. In a way, they and the other disciples stand for each one of us. As we read the gospel we are invited to see something of ourselves in them and in their gradual growth in belief and commitment. They left their nets and followed him. They did not know what they were being called to but they ‘went to see’. Like the fishermen and women who went to ‘sea’ off the coast of Alaska, they did not know what to expect. Like them we did not know and still do not know what we were being called to,but the underlying message never changes. Love one another as I have loved you. How will this unfold in our lives as we continue our journey into unchartered waters? “Lord, make me know your ways Lord teach me your paths” (Psalm 24).
Sr. Kathleen Fitzsimon OP