St. Joseph, foster father to Jesus and I have something important in common; we are fishermen.
I know. You may be saying that I have no evidence that Joseph ever went fishing. But faith and logic – and a little imagination — have convinced me that Joseph loved to fish and this had a profound influence on Jesus.
Let me explain…
My wife and I have a son and a daughter. The son is six years older than the daughter. Both are all grown up with children of their own now. But when they were 8 and 2, we were trying to figure out a vacation that would have things both would enjoy. We decided to rent a cabin on a little lake in Wisconsin and spend a week fishing, hiking, playing on the beach, and relaxing.
I had never been much of an outdoorsman and expected to have a miserable time. Instead, I loved it and we returned every year for two decades. Much to my surprise, I became an avid fisherman. That isn’t to say that I’m much of a catcher of fish but I do love trying.
As Father’s Day approached this year, I got to thinking (some might even say I had a sort of vision) of Joseph in the carpenter’s shop with Jesus. They probably worked long, hard, days. Carpentry is physical work, especially in Joseph’s time before there were power tools.
So it would only be natural that Joseph would take a break for a week or two in the summer and plan a little vacation. According to ancient texts, Nazareth wasn’t much of a resort town in those days but the Sea of Galilee is a day’s walk away. I’m think it would make sense for Joseph to pack up Mary and Jesus and head off to the sea for a week of fishing and relaxing on the shore.
Those of you who have read the Bible know that it doesn’t have a lot to say about Jesus before his public ministry. We see him as a baby, get a glimpse of the Holy Family fleeing to Egypt, see him presented and later found in the temple.
The rest of the time we presume he was helping dad in the carpenter’s shop. And as I have seen, he went on a fishing vacation each summer.
This early exposure to fishing was to have a profound effect on Jesus and some of the decisions he made during his public life. Clearly, those annual trips to the sea exposed him to the bravery, honesty, and leadership of fishermen.
He learned that fishermen know how to communicate with others and tell a good story. When he picked his disciples, he knew he would need people who could remain optimistic even when people rejected them and refused to hear their words of faith.
Nobody is more optimistic than a fisherman. A fisherman can cast a line for hours without a bite and still believe the next cast will generate a record catch. That’s the sort of attitude an evangelist must have.
Thus, when it came to picking disciples, Jesus went to the sea of Galilee, the place where he had so many fond childhood fishing memories, and built his core of followers on fishermen. He even founded His Church on the shoulders of a fisherman.
Perhaps this sounds far-fetched. I certainly have not had an approved vision. But it makes sense, at least as much as most fish stories.