Seafarers as ‘fishers of men’
The apostles of Jesus Christ were initially known as “fishers of men” which is considered as the most important metaphor for evangelism.
According to the gospel last Sunday, Christ first gathered his fishermen-disciples around him who later disseminated his teachings.
Andrew, Peter, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were fishermen. The bible relates that Andrew and Peter were fishing, plying their trade when called, and James and John were mending nets with their father. The bible also states that James and John weren’t just fishermen, but business owners, along with their father, for they employed others in the business.
Thomas and Philip may have also worked as fishermen, for they were all together and fishing when Jesus appeared to them following his resurrection.
The disciples are simple working people with no great background.
In Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero’s ranking of occupations, owners of cultivated land appear first and fishermen last.
In the ancient world, fishing was a metaphor for two distinct activities: judgment and teaching.
Water is a symbol of life as well as a symbol of destruction. To some, the water reference might also be linked to the idea of baptism.
In this case, Jesus called the disciples to drag people out from the water of this world where they are drowning in sin. He invited them to abandon the nets and trust themselves totally to the Lord for a new ‘catch’, a new definitive horizon. It might refer to the disciples working to catch souls for Jesus as they had previously caught fish.
When fish leaves water it dies after few hours. However, it receives a new life through the teachings of resurrection.
In the Philippines, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod are two martyrs of the Philippine Catholic Church who were seafarers and missionaries at the same time before they became saints.
Ruiz and Calungsod sailed to other countries and died for a mission: “to teach the Good News.”
While working as a clerk for the Binondo Church, Ruiz was falsely accused of killing a Spaniard. Ruiz sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests and sailed for Japan. However, Christians were being persecuted in Japan by the time Ruiz had arrived. The missionaries were arrested, thrown into prison, and endured various cruel methods of torture. Despite his suffering, Ruiz refused to renounce Christianity and died from eventual blood loss and suffocation. His body was cremated, with the ashes thrown into the sea.
While in Guam, Calungsod preached Christianity to the Chamorro people through catechism, while baptizing infants, children and adults at the risk and expense of being persecuted and eventually murdered.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle earlier acknowledged the role of seafarers, Filipino mariners in particular, in propagating the teachings of the church, and not merely major contributors to the country’s economic growth.
Tagle underscored that the pain brought by separation is a sign of the seafarer’s love, strength, and faith for the good of his family and the country.
“Even if you feel pain when you leave your family and your country, that suffering is not a reason for you to be ‘paralyzed,’ but inspire you to strive for more,” said Tagle, adding that their hardships will not weaken them but make them even stronger.
The Philippines is considered as one of the major supplier of maritime labor globally as it is estimated that there is one Filipino seafarer for every four to five complements on board a vessel at any time.
The estimated 337,502 deployed Filipino seafarers in 2018 remitted $6.14 billion or around P318.55 billion. The sea-based sector’s remittances comprise at least 22 percent of the total dollar remittances of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
These remittances help spur domestic consumption in the Philippines and a key ingredient in the country’s drive to achieve higher but sustainable growth.
With faith as a weapon, the Filipino saints and seafarers sail with a mission – to be the soldier of change not only in the Philippines but also to the whole world.
Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, send message through email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786).
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