“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.” Matthew 4:18.
Simon was enjoying a nice quiet day out on θάλασσα, the lake, doing what he had probably done for the entirety of his life. He was fishing with his brother. A model of consistency, Simon can be often found in a boat on the water. Simon was not doing anything extraordinary on this particular day. He surely had no idea that he was about to embark on the most meaningful journey of his life and that he would become a pillar of God’s Church. But whatever Simon’s thoughts were on this day, what we find him doing is working, casting his net looking for fish.
When we read about the apostles of Jesus in the Gospels, we can forget that they are truly relatable. And that we should be relating to them. They were not just remarkable men who lived 2000 years ago. They are remarkable men who lived 2000 years ago and whose teachings and familiarity are as strong then as they are now. When we reflect on this first appearance of Peter in the first gospel book in the Bible, we can reflect on how truly relatable Simon is to us.
If we take just a moment to really be with this story, we can all see ourselves here. And this is because where Jesus found Simon is where he finds you and me. He finds us when we are doing our work. He finds us doing the everyday, ordinary tasks of our lives. Whether we are working as a cook, secretary, doctor, nurse, janitor, teacher, nanny, mom or priest, God is waiting for us to answer his call, in the very routine, familiar tasks of our everyday lives. And when Jesus called Simon to follow him, what did he do? He went. He did not complain, he did not ask questions, he went.
The first noteworthy road of exploration here is how we can discover Jesus in the major events and tasks of our life. On the surface it may seem more obvious for priests, pastors, ministers, chaplains, and deacons to see how God is calling them in their jobs and careers. But what if we are called to a career that operates in the secular world? When we are lawyers, accountants, artists, janitors, flight attendants, electricians, and carpenters, etc., it can be more difficult to see Christ in our work. There are meetings, deadlines, patients, lists, obligations, etc. that must be attended to in eight hours. Prayer, meditation and scripture readings are not on the “to do” list for these jobs. So, we forget about them. Or we claim that we do not have time.
When we work jobs outside the church, there is this separation that occurs between our spiritual life and our secular life. Like a light switch, we seem to turn our spirituality on and off. How many of us go off to our jobs and work our entire shift without thinking or consulting God? Now we can certainly live a Christian life at our jobs by being kind, not cursing, not gossiping, etc., and this is really wonderful. But is there room for improvement? Where can we include God in our work lives more effectively?
This question is important, because as we see with Simon, God call us in our ordinary jobs; in our daily tasks. So how can we be better listeners in these tasks? Prayer is the first addition that comes to mind. If we are driving to work, how many cemeteries do we pass? How many ambulances or police cars drive by? Do we pray for the deceased and the suffering? Do we pray for the workers in the ambulance or the officers in the squad cars? Did we offer a prayer of thanks when we safely arrived to work? Or did we forget to recognize these things because our minds were already in “work mode?” In the mental health field, the word that we would use here is “mindfulness.” Are we living in the present moment, noticing the things around us or are we stuck in our heads reviewing and managing the “to dos?”
Before we move on too quickly, it should be noted that our above discussion focused on out-of-home careers, but for those who work in the home as stay-at-home moms or dads or caretakers, or who are disabled and cannot work, or who are homebound for any reason, the message is still the same. God will call us to himself wherever we are at in our lives and our task is to seek God out in whatever “career” or location we are in in the present moment.
God will meet us where we are at in our lives, wherever that may be. If we are fishing, teaching, running, skiing, eating, cleaning, taking care of children, or ministering to the sick, God is there with us, calling us ever closer to him. If we are not tuned in, then we can so easily miss the call. We must be ready to respond and promptly as Simon did on that day on the Lake 2000 years ago.
It must be acknowledged that so often the ordinariness of our lives brings with it suffering. Suffering from physical ailments, mental health issues, grief, etc. The chronic and pervasive sufferings of this world can become as ordinary as going to work every day or waking up every morning and brushing our teeth. Well, my suffering brothers and sisters, Christ meets us in our darkness as well. In the depths of our daily despair, there is Christ, calling us closer to him. We cannot forget that even when we are plagued with suffering that is so much a part of our lives, that this “ordinariness” is where Christ finds us as well. We just fail to see it. The life of Simon Peter is one that is relatable and applicable to the life of every Christian. Seeing ourselves in his life can bring us light and guidance, even in the ordinariness of our lives.