Saturday, April 7, 2012

The 153 Fish

There are church musicians that I've overheard, on occasion, talking about folks that show up just for the big stuff. "C and E Catholics," they disdainfully opine. "I want nothing to do with them. In fact, sometimes I save the best music for the following week, when all the regular church goers are there."

Not me.

There is a verse in the Gospel of John, that makes mention of a seemingly insignificant bit of trivia: that when the net was hauled in, there were some 153 different kinds of fish present in the catch. Knowledgable theologians among us have claimed that the number is mentioned because, at the time of Jesus, that's how many kinds of fish were known to humanity. The number was meant to signify, according to these theologians, the expansiveness of the net: not one species was left behind. All were gathered in.

When the Folk Choir sings at Easter, we are spreading the net. And even for those who might, in fact, be the "C & E Catholics" in our midst, I want them as part of the catch. In fact, my work is all the more closely aimed toward those who have been marginalized, for whatever reason, from the joy that faith affords. The net is plenty big enough. And Lord knows, we've worked very hard at our song over these past few months. Let everyone in!

There are a lot of reasons people can choose to be away from the Church right now. And few things, more than likely, can dissipate the anger or soften the stones that are now their hearts. But I'll bet on joy. Joy, an unabashed joy-filled expression of faith, is infectious – people who witness this will never be the same again. And they will thirst for more. At least, that's my gamble, week after week.

And there is no greater day to roll the dice, to spread the net, to blast the "Alleluias!", than the blessed octave we now traverse.

There is a beautiful old Irish prayer, "Ag Críost, an Síol," which exhorts its listeners:
"To Christ the fish,
To Christ the oceans,
Into the nets of Christ may we be caught."

Spread the net. Jesus would be proud of us, fishermen and women, using rods and reels loaded with joy.


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  2. Steve, I love this. I was just having a conversation with my mother about this the other day when recalling Christmas where my grandparent's church reserved seats for "the regulars" and had the same sort of "we're the real Catholics and we shouldn't waste our times with those that only bother to show up twice a year" mentality. It was really saddening to me- the church shouldn't be an exclusive club. All are welcome! it's so refreshing to see this. Keep spreading the net! - Whitney Young