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The Perfume of Preachers

Fishers-of-MenSt. Dominic encouraged his brothers and sisters to “contemplate and to share the fruits of that contemplation.” This was how he imagined an Order of Preachers should preach the Gospel. We Dominicans are to look at God in the depths of our hearts in silence and prayer before going out to share what we see with others. It is no wonder then as Dominican students that when we come across passages of Scripture like today’s Gospel passage, we are so sensitive to this beautiful tension between the contemplative and apostolic demands of our vocation. It is a very real tension for us to get the balance right and yet at the same time it is truly beautiful; there is no doubt about it.

Amid the busyness of their active labour, Jesus calls Peter and Andrew as they are casting their net into the lake. In just the same way, he calls James and John as they are mending their net at a more restful pace. In this we can see Jesus reconciling contemplative and apostolic fervour, putting them both at the service of the fishing of men. In the language of today’s Gospel, Dominic’s vision might be translated into something like “to fish and to share the fruits of one’s fishing.”

To contemplate God is to fish in that great sea of love. To explore and discover; to fill our nets with treasures from the deep and to feed on them. In this vast abyss that is God, there is no possibility of over-fishing. There is more than enough for everybody. St. John of the Cross speaks of the depths of Christ as a “rich mine with many recesses containing treasures; no matter how men try to fathom them, the end is never reached.”

To share the fruits of one’s fishing is exactly that – to feed others as we ourselves have been fed. This was how the disciples became fishers of men. St. John Chrysostom believed that the disciples were to “catch others by those same words by which they themselves had been caught.” The disciples were first convinced in their hearts and then told to go and fish for others. All Christians share in this dual mandate. We are fish captivated by Christ and yet we are fishers of men for Christ; we are both contemplatives and missionaries. Pope Francis said shepherds ought to smell like their sheep. If this is so, we might as well reek of fish too in this new line of Gospel fragrances.

 

Gospel Reflection for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (Matthew 4:12-23)