Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
January 25, 2015
I have read and reflected on, prayed over, and preached on today’s Gospel for 20 years; I know it well. But, as I was preparing to break open The Word for you today, one word kept jumping off the page for me, causing me to relate to this passage in an entirely different way than ever before. That word was “NET.”
Those three letters…”N-E-T”…hooked me to the point that even though I obviously can spell it and use it in a sentence, I looked it up in the dictionary. This is what I found:
NET: As a noun, means a contrivance or trap for catching something, like fish, or butterflies. A NET is also something that divides, like the net that divides a tennis court. And NETS can be something that protects us…like mosquito netting.
But the word NET is also a verb, an action word that means: to take with…to catch or snare.
Finally, the word NET can be an adjective to describe something that’s left over when everything else is taken away, like our net salary, our “after taxes” pay…our take-home check! It means: what’s left…what’s pure!
Well, by now, you’re probably thinking that this is a grammar lesson and not a homily, but please keep reading. You see, I had to work all of this out in my own mind in order to understand why The Holy Spirit kept drawing me to the simple little word, NET, as I reflected on this week’s Readings. And this is what I’ve come to see:
The NETS that Simon Peter and his brother Andrew and James and John were working with, cleaning, mending, folding in order to get ready for another night of fishing were clearly the tools of their trade and were extremely important to them. Without their nets, they couldn’t make a living. They couldn’t be fishermen. However, I’m wondering if there just might not be a deeper, more profound meaning here in this passage from Mark’s Gospel.
Is it possible that the Holy Spirit wants us to think about ALL of the contrivances…or traps…that occupied these four men? Certainly, there were other things that captured their minds and hearts, things that had such a strong hold of their attention that they almost didn’t see Jesus as He passed by them on the shore of the Sea of Galilee…things like debt, the relationship with their wives, a sick child, a dependent parent, or even a leaky roof.
Could it be that the Holy Spirit wants us to consider all of those things that divide, or separate, us and have such a strong hold on our attention that we are at risk of failing to see the Lord pass through our lives? Could this passage be an invitation to reflect on all of the things that threaten our unity with God and with one another? Could the “nets” that Mark’s Gospel is referring to be all of those things that divide us from God?
Maybe the Holy Spirit is asking us to consider the NETS we surround ourselves with to protect us from things that make us uncomfortable…or challenge us…or threaten our way of thinking…or acting.
Maybe the Holy Spirit is trying to stretch us…and get us to think of all of the OTHER THINGS besides their work tools that these first disciples had to put aside in order to follow Jesus, so that we are able to identify and lay aside all those things that keep us from following the Lord.
Consider this: NET is an action word. Some might argue that Jesus said something that so influenced these four men that they abandoned their lives, their families, and their obligations. Some might argue that Jesus trapped…or snared…or captured them. But the truth is, Jesus liberated, or freed, Peter and Andrew, James and John from the world as they knew it, so that they could enjoy a glimpse of what the world could and should be. He took away those things that weighed them down, burdened them, and encumbered them. And the NET result of this encounter with The Lord on that amazing morning was their purest self. What was left when they laid aside their NETS was everything God intended them to be when God spoke them into existence.