Christian. However the drawing had also some message in it. The five letters of the Greek word for fish are the first letters of the following words: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Saviour. As I see another car marked by the symbol of fish I hope that the person in the vehicle tells me, and all the other people, that Jesus Christ, the Son of God is their Saviour.
It was very astute of those early Christians to see the message in the fish word. However I am not sure if they knew that fish also captures the essence of listening. Fish have an inner ear which is practically impossible to be removed. They also have lateral line system which runs along the length of their body. One could say that fish are all ears.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Jewish people, from whom Jesus Christ came, have prayed the following prayer every morning and evening: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.’ They have prayed so that their love of God could involve every aspect of their being. That’s why the way the Scriptures present hearing can be summed up as: You shall hear the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Can you now connect fish with both the profession of faith: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Saviour and the humanity taken up by Jesus to become all ears?
The Gospel of Mark for this Sunday shows us the astonishment of the residents of Nazareth at Jesus’ wisdom and the miracles performed by him. They couldn’t deny that it was happening but they couldn’t understand how a son of a carpenter who grew up in their town could have such wisdom and power. St Mark tells us that because of Jesus’ ordinariness they didn’t accept him. In his ordinariness Jesus was well and truly a son of man. The prophets who were preparing the people for his coming were also exhibiting ordinariness so that people could be accustomed to God manifesting himself in ordinary. However as we could hear in the Gospel it was still too much for the people to see God in a son of man.
The challenge the residents of Nazareth had is our challenge too. We may love the human aspect of the Nativity set or even the humanness of the crucifixion but can we agree with what an early Christian thinker Tertullian wrote: ‘We, little fishes, after the image of our Fish, Jesus Christ, are born in the water.’ Because of the grace of baptism our humanity has been tuned into all ears. It is our call as it is our grace to hear God in ordinariness of our life.
The Founder of my Order, St Eugene de Mazenod, as a young priest wanted to devote his life to awaken the faith of his compatriots affected by the many years of the French Revolution, which attacked not only the structures of the Church but also the faith itself. That’s why he began working with the youth. Two years after his ordination the youth movement he established numbered a couple of hundred members. He became a sought after confessor. At that time however his close friend, who was a priest too, went to Rome to ask the Holy Father for a blessing to be a missionary in China. Pope Pius VII after listening to the reasoning answered politely: ‘Your project is good, but it is more appropriate to come to the aid of the people around us. France needs especially missions for the people and retreats for the clergy.’ The advice the Pope gave to Eugene’s friend changed Eugene too. Although he didn’t hear the Pope speak it he recognized in it an invitation for him. He began working on starting a community of missionaries who would travel the Southern France to preach missions in little towns and villages where no one would go. It was the origin of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. St Eugene de Mazenod heard God speaking to him in the advice the Pope gave to someone else.
I don’t know if St Eugene had a symbol of fish on him but he was like fish when it came to hearing. He was all ears. That’s why he heard God with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might. He heard God and was moved like the prophet Ezekiel. He couldn’t ignore it. He couldn’t leave it without an answer. St Eugene committed himself to the mission. This missionary who was all ears tells us today to be humble like St Paul in order so that each one of us, and our Church, can hear God speak in ordinary and thus to act upon it.