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Jesus is walking along the shore and he sees fishermen. He calls to them. Then He sees two others mending their nets. Why does Matthew not just write that they are fishermen? Why net menders? Because Jesus needs two sets of skills: one to catch the fish and another not to lose them after they are caught. Picture this. A fisherman pulls up a net full of fish. What are the fish doing at the bottom of the net? They are wiggling around. What they are really doing is taking their sharp fins and sawing a hole in the net. What good is it to find the fish, catch them, haul the net full of fish out of the water, only to lose them when they slip out of the little hole in the bottom? Here is the point. If you catch fish with a net, you are going to need net menders.
During the clergy sex abuse scandal, I asked a pastor how he was doing through the ordeal. He said, “I worked so hard to give the people a church they can be proud of. I remodeled the church, got together a great music and educational program, provided convenient times for Masses and confession and spent time visiting with families. With all that, half the people just don’t come back anymore. What good is it to draw them all in with goodness, generosity and goodwill only to lose half of them?” This is the insight that Jesus has in the Gospel. He is looking for two sets of skills. Jesus calls the net menders because they repair the brokenness.
Let’s talk about Corinth. Corinth is one of those rare cities that has a sea on the east side of the city and a sea on the west, something like Cape Cod. The plan was to dig a canal from one body of water to the next so boats could take a short cut. This would save sailors at least a week of travelling around the peninsula, a navigational nightmare. They never made the canal but that did not stop sailors from going to Corinth and dragging their boat across the land to the other side. Corinth was the crossroads of the Roman Empire. It is here that Paul founded a church. He wrote to the Corinthians, “I hear that there are divisions among you,” Of course there are divisions, disagreements and differences, they are at the crossroads of the world! Then Paul said, “Be united.” But that is not the word he used. He used the same word that was in the Gospel: “mend your nets.” The only way to unity is to fix brokenness.
Early one morning I checked my phone to see if I was called by the hospital during the night. I noted immediately that my phone was dead; I forgot to charge it. Naturally, I was needed so I went and took care of the call. The next day, I received an e-mail from an angry manager that was going to “write me up” – whatever that means. I wanted to email back and say, “Do me the favor and fire me.” But I didn’t instead I took the afternoon off and caught a few fish. I went into the club house and put a few extra logs on the fire, pulled up the La-Z-Boy near the fire place, raised up my feet, and took a nap. Later, I went home and remembered to charge my phone. The hospital called that night and I went in. Now the hospital loves me again. Fixing brokenness is not so hard. The faith lesson of the Gospel is this. God knows that we get banged up and bruised. That is why he made us so we could heal quickly. Jesus wants us to have two skills in place. One is to draw people to the church through our generosity, sacrifice, and forgiveness (who doesn’t like that). But we can’t forget the second skill set: mend the nets. Fix our brokenness.Back to All Homilies