All of us fishermen from Capernaum were already up even before the roosters could crow in the morning. One by one, we would leave the house still half asleep. With our nets we would all gather in the small wharf in the city where our fishing boats were moored and where the old men would divide the tasks among us everyday…
Zebedee: What early birds, young men!… Brrr…. It’s damn cold!…. Come on, shake a leg, the mountain breeze will be good for fishing….. Jonas, my friend, join your own men…. Twins, you and I will go down that bend…. and you, young men, to the fishing boats!… Cheer up, everyone, for this is gonna be a lucky day!….
The rowmen were thrust in the calm waters of the lake as the north wind pushed the boats to sail. And there in the deep was cast a big net that would catch the best fish. Another group with their baskets and ropes remained on the shore in order to trap the small ones, the goldfish and the needlefish.
Jonas: Stretch out the net, you beast!…. Farther… Hold it, Peter! Over there! Over there! We have a school of “dorados” on the left!…. Come on, young men!…
Jesus was with us for one week in Capernaum. He looked for a job during the day; at night he went to the house to have a drink and to tell us stories. Jesus was a good friend. Soon he became close to the family and considered himself one of us… That morning, when he woke up, we were already battling with the wavy waters of the lake.… Jesus crossed the fishing village, passing through the palm trees that surrounded the wharf and walked toward the shore….
Jonas: Andrew, lend Peter a hand!… You too, frog face!… Come on, boys, all together now!…. One, two, three!…. Yaaa!
Jonas: One more time!
Jonas: Hurray for the fishermen!
Jonas: Cheers to the brave men of Tiberias!
Jonas: Cheers to the strong men of Bethsaida!
Jonas: Hurray to the real men of Capernaum!
Jonas: Ya, ya, ya, ya!
Men: Ya, ya, ya, ya!
Peter: Damn this net! Its knots are all rotten! Uff!
Andrew: Hey, Peter, isn’t that man Jesus? Look….
Peter: Ah, yes, he is the one…. Finally, the moreno of Nazareth has shown up!… Obviously, these peasants from the inner land are not early birds. Hey, you, guy from Nazareth!…. Just wait for us there; we’re comin’ ashore!
Jonas: Where are you going, Peter?… Andrew, you dope, don’t release the rope!
Andrew: The net is empty, there is nothing in it, not even “dorados” or slimy shells!
Peter: We have a visitor. Come, let’s welcome him!
Jonas: To hell with all of you and the visitor! Ever since this fellow came, you do nothing but spend the time chatting! You charlatans!…
Jesus: Well, yes, I slept like a log. Right now, I’m going to see Rufina’s “comadre,” whose house is about to fall down. If I put up the wall and nail the roof in place, then I’ll be earning a few dinars.
Peter: That can wait later. There’s always time for work. Let’s go look for Zebedee’s sons down the bend, then we can roast some fresh “dorados.” What do you think?
Jesus: But you have to work, Peter, and….
Peter: Don’t worry about that, Jesus. I am sick and tired of casting nets into this cove.
Andrew: This is Jonas, our father. He is the most stubborn man in town.
Peter: One can always catch a school of “dorados” here, but then, he gets tired of casting the net, and so ends up catching nothing at all.
Jesus: I say that must be a difficult job. I’ve been watching all of you do it….
Andrew: Not really. It’s a matter of getting used to it and knowing how to work with the group. As one pulls up the buoy, another tucks in the knots, while another attends to the baskets… like this….
Peter: Toothpick, first we gotta teach him how to swim. Peasants can’t even swim, you know!
Jesus: You’re right, Peter. Let’s put it this way. I’m never at home in the water!
Andrew: Well, do you plan to stay in Capernaum for some more days?
Jesus: I’m not sure… It depends.
Peter: What do you mean?
Jesus: It all depends on you.
Peter: That’s no problem with us, right Andrew? You can stay with the Zebedees or with us, for as long as you want. You are welcome any time.
Andrew: And, as you have seen, there’s always work for you here….
Jesus: No, it’s not because of that. That’s not what I’m thinking of right now.
Peter: Then, what is it?
Jesus: Nothing, it’s just that…. You see, when I was in the desert, after we parted ways in the Jordan, remember? I had a chance to reflect…..
Jesus: Listen, Peter. The prophet John is still in prison, and no one is demanding justice. What have we been doing? We talk a lot, that’s right, and that’s all.
Peter: That was precisely what I was saying yesterday: we talk about a lotta things: many stories, baptism, it’s all words… But when the moment of truth comes, we leave the prophet in solitude. Tell me, what is the movement planning to do? Aren’t the zealots gonna save him?
Andrew: Machaerus is very much isolated by mountains. It would be very difficult to storm it…
Peter: Difficult or not…. We cannot allow the voice of John to be carried away by the wind… We must act now, and do something…. Good Lord!
Andrew: What is your plan, Jesus?
Jesus: Nothing special, Andrew, but… I don’t know…. As I see you cast your nets…. it just occurred to me that…. Hey, why don’t we do exactly what you’re doing when fishing? I mean, you cast your nets and together, you pull it. Why don’t we do something together?
Peter: Exactly. Less talk but more work. We need stones and not words to smash the heads of the Romans. That’s a good idea, Jesus. We do something on our own, let’s not wait for orders from the movement. Let’s take the law into our own hands!
Jesus: Forget about the stone throwing and the law, Peter. What’s important is that we be united, as a group…
Peter: That’s a good idea. I like it. One for all, all for one. Together we face all perils, and together we celebrate our victory. Well, then, we form a group, and we attack by surprise.
Andrew: Hold it, Peter. This isn’t clear yet. Why are we forming a group, Jesus?
Jesus: Well, to continue the work started by the prophet John, to talk to the people and tell them: “The time of the Lord has come. He will cast his nets by the sea and all of you should be alert. God is not pleased with the state of things. The time has come when the big fish will no longer devour the small fish.”
Peter: Very well said. When do we start?
Andrew: Take it easy, Peter. What Jesus has said is fine, but… but we must be very careful. It reeks of conspiracy around here. If we organize something, we gotta take some precautions.
Jesus: Are you afraid, Andrew?
Andrew: I’m not scared, Jesus. But neither do I want to be hunted like a criminal.
Jesus: And you, Peter, are you scared?
Peter: Who, me? Of course not. You do not know me yet, Moreno!
Jesus: Well, I am. While in the desert, I discovered that I was scared…. scared to risk my life, you know what I mean? But God’s gonna give us the strength to move on, don’t you think so?
Peter: Why, of course! There is no place for cowards in this world. Come, let us talk to James and John. Let us see what these bandits have to say!
Peter, Andrew and Jesus headed for the shore until they reached the bend, where Zebedee’s boats were waiting. My brother and I were with our father, mending some old nets…..
Peter: There they are… The one who’s half naked is James…
Jesus: Hey, James, yes, you… come over here, and hurry, redhead. We want to talk to you!
Peter: Where is this restless fellow, John?
Jesus: Come over here, John!…. Leave your nets and come here!
John: We’ll be right there!
Zebedee: Hold it, young men, you’re not leaving!… It is not mealtime yet! Damn these young people! I swear they will go to bed with an empty stomach, this pair of bums!
James: Fellows, today would be the right time to show our friend around. Since he came, all he did was nail and lay bricks. Today, we shall have a little fun. Look, Jesus, Capernaum is known for being a happy city, and that is true. Here, there is always dancing and drinking…. Plenty of women, also. In this village, a certain Mary of Magdala, where she comes from, has got us all hooked up!…. Ayayay!..
Andrew: Hey, redhead, forget about that for the meantime, as we have something more serious to talk about. Jesus has a plan. We were planning to organize a group independent of the movement…
The five of us walked toward the wharf as we discussed about the group and the plan of action we would take. At the wharf, we gathered wood, built a fire and cooked some fresh “dorados”….
James: I guess we need some weapons.
Jesus: What are the weapons for, James?
James: To kill the Romans with. You always say that the big fish devour the small fish, and this must be stopped. Then let’s get rid of them!
Jesus: Hold it, James. You yourselves have said that a good fisherman does not make a lot of noise so as not to shoo away the fish. What has to be done at this moment is to begin gathering the small fishes, to make them strong, and not allow themselves be devoured by the big fish. What do you think? God also began that way, when He told Moses to organize the dispersed Jews, so that together, they could defy the Pharaoh and flee from his anger.
Peter: Well said, Jesus. I believe many will unite, if we know how to cast our nets well.
Andrew: We can inform Philip, the vendor.
John: And Nathanael, too, from Cana.
Jesus: So, what now? Have we decided to do something? What do you think, James?
James: Well, then. I’m joining the group. We will see where we should begin. Let’s work hand in hand.
Jesus: Do you agree, John, the troublemaker?
John: Sure, you can count on me.
Jesus: What do you say, Andrew, you toothpick?
Andrew: As I have said before… yes, ….but with open eyes. We must all work together with this.
Jesus: What does Peter, the stone-thrower say?
Peter: Are you asking me, Jesus? Three times will I say yes, yes, and yes! Give me that hand! And now, your turn, Moreno. What do you say? Are you joining the group?
Jesus: Yes, I also put my hand on this ground and there is no turning back for me. This is the time for us to work as one.
And so it was, that in the wharf of Capernaum, with everyone squatting by the bonfire waiting for the “dorados” to cook, we formed our group. We were only five.
Fishing was the main livelihood in all the cities and small villages surrounding the Lake of Tiberias. During those times, fishing belonged to the lower social class with hardly a culture of their own, who were not conscientious of their religious duties and were said to have fallen short of the social norms of “good education,” so to speak. Together with the peasants and other poor, they formed part of the so-called “amhaares” (primitively known as “people of the land,” “countrymen”; later known as “sinners,” “lawbreakers”). The fishermen by the lakeside either worked for a patron who got the lion’s share of the earnings, or constituted an independent group which, with the help of family members, formed small cooperatives that would help ease their enormous financial difficulties.
What is left of these small wharves of Jesus’ time is still preserved in various points on the lake. Tabgha, for example, is about 30 kilometers from Capernaum, whose steps are about two thousand years old. The wharf of Capernaum is located in the reconstructed portion.
Jesus recruited his first disciples from among the fishermen who were his friends. With them he formed a group, a community, and gradually discovered his vocation, his mission to proclaim the Kingdom of God in a world where many changes were needed. The first five disciples and later on his twelve staunch followers became, in effect, the first ecclesial community.
At the start of any human endeavor, there is much groping, much immaturity as one continues with the search. Plans are never defined to perfection, neither are the objectives nor consequences clearly seen. Thus the risk and the trust that is placed in the Lord for the success of the undertaking. The same was true of Jesus and his group. The leadership of Jesus within the group was not imposed nor established right at the beginning. Rather, it was something that would gradually develop and be nurtured. Slowly, the first fishermen of Capernaum saw in Jesus a great companion, a great friend, a natural leader with a generous character and strong will, and finally a shepherd who would tend his flock and lead them as the liberator they were waiting for.
The task that Jesus and his friends are to face, which is to catch people, is communal and demanding. The Kingdom of God requires collective endeavor. As in fishing, it takes much of one’s time and patience, a keen sense of observation, strategy and astuteness. Jesus likewise tells his friends that God, who is a fisher of people, will cast the nets in order to catch human beings. This is a scene that is found in the parable of the fishing net (Mt 13:47-50) which refers to God’s judgment of the world. The good fish will be separated from the worthless ones (which at that time were understood to be the “bad fish” because they lacked scales and fins, as in the case of conger eels, and therefore not fit for human consumption). Jesus tells his first disciples that the time for God’s judgment has come. The symbol of the good fish and the bad fish is substituted by the big and the small fish.
(Mt 4:18-22; Mk 1:16-20; Lk 5:1-11)