Every good fisherman has a story. I don’t claim to be a fisherman, let alone a good one, but here’s my story.
I was on a short trip with my brothers and some friends a few years ago to celebrate my 40th birthday. As part of the weekend, I booked a fishing expedition for Goliath Grouper. Having the qualifying experience of reeling in catfish with a hot dog on the end of a $15 reel I bought from Walmart, why not go out into the ocean to reel in a fish that could weigh 500 lbs. or more? What could possibly go wrong?
We met our guide early in the morning and discussed the game plan for the day: where we would go, the weather and waves, how the fish were traveling, etc. Before boarding the boat, the guide cast a net off the dock to catch some mullet, a kind of 2- to 3-lb. baitfish.
When we arrived at the fishing spot, the guide sat me on a beer cooler resting on the boat’s bow. The next words out of his mouth were: “One of three things is about to happen: you’re either going to be pulled off this boat by this fish, slice your leg open with the reel and let go (which would cost me $1,000 to replace), or land the biggest fish of your life.” My brothers and I laughed, thinking he was kidding.
Next was a raucous struggle not to be pulled overboard by an unseen force that apparently loves mullet. My friend held me by the belt as I strove to neither let go nor be pulled overboard. Then the line snapped.
Later that day, an even longer battle ensued at another spot, and though I got the fish (which the guide said he thought weighed more than 250 lbs.) close to the surface, he won the day. The line snapped, and I slumped back, feeling like I had just gone 10 rounds in the ring.
I think about that fish a lot. Part of me wants to head back out there, put on another mullet, and wait for the whiz of the reel, signaling that the game is on again.
This long fish story has a simple point: evangelization demands casting both wide and deep. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea that gathers all kinds of fish (Matthew 13:47). He also tells His disciples to cast into the deep (Luke 5:4-11).
This means we need to have events and spaces at our parishes that “cast wide.” The good news is that we already do — CYC sports, schools, fish fries, men’s and women’s clubs, etc., cast a wide net. But are we utilizing these moments to “cast deep” into intentional relationships and discipleship with others? Are we willing to engage in the struggle of winning a soul over to Jesus? And if the line snaps, are we ready to cast deep again?
As a man, I think about that fish a lot. But as a Christian, I’m haunted by the ones that have gotten away, either because of my reluctance or unwillingness to cast wide and deep for the kingdom.
Let’s encourage one another to stop treating our parishes like aquariums and go fishing.