Fishers of people

This Sunday, January 26, is “fishers of people” Sunday, nicknamed by the Gospel story of Jesus’ calling of the first disciples.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)

A version of this story appears in each of the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This year, which is Lectionary Year A, we hear the Matthew account on Epiphany III, which is this coming Sunday.

In 2018, which was Year B, we heard the Luke version on Epiphany V, and in 2019 we heard the Mark version on Epiphany III of Year C.

I love this story for many reasons. As I have mentioned on other occasions in this blog, my grandmother used to read bible stories to me from a couple of children's books. I distinctly remember her reading this particular story to me.

This story also sets its scene so very well. We can all imagine this casual, very real moment where Jesus happens upon two sets of brothers, working hard by the seashore, trying to provide for their families.

Jesus first encounters Peter and Andrew as they were casting their nets into the sea.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

Walking along now with Peter and Andrew, they see James and John, who are in their own boat with their father Zebedee, mending their fishing nets, and he presumably said the same thing to them.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.”

The precious hymn, “They cast their nets in Galilee,” which is found in both The Hymnal 1940 and The Hymnal 1982, perfectly fits these gospel accounts. On Sunday, the Parish Choir and the CHC Choristers will sing an anthem setting by Michael McCabe of this cherished text.

After the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) allowed the Mass to be said in the vernacular, liturgical music in the Roman Catholic Church had to do a bit of liturgical catching-up as well.

Our hymnal supplement Wonder, Love, and Praise contains one of the distinctive Spanish hymn that is also appropriate for this occasion, “You have come down to the lakeshore,” which we will sing this Sunday.

Written after the Second Vatican Council, "You have come down to the lakeshore" is one of the hymns of the Spanish priest, journalist, and musicologist Monseñor Cesáreo Gabriáin (1936-1991), who was inspired by various people that he met during his ministry. His hymns were recorded on 37 albums, and he is the only Roman Catholic composer to ever have a Gold Record (50,000+ copies sold) in Spain.

Gabriáin penned both the hymn text and hymn tune, which makes it unique as well.

The original title of the hymn is Pescador de Hombres (“Fisher of Men”), and the tune is titled Pescador in our hymnal supplement. “You have come down to the lakeshore” is the first line of the hymn, “Tú has venido a la orilla” in its original Spanish.

Our arrangement in Wonder, Love, and Praise is the work of one of the first Hispanic American voices in Episcopal church music, Skinner Chávez-Melo (1944-1992). Born in Mexico City, he emigrated to this country where he completed graduate studies at the Union Theological Seminary School of Music. He did further studies at Julliard and the Manhattan School of Music.

Chávez-Melo was music director of St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church in Manhattan. An organist, conductor, and composer, he tragically died of spinal cancer at age 47.

He toured in Mexico, Brazil, and the United States, playing organ recitals and conducting orchestras. He composed for the organ, choirs, and orchestras, and he presented workshops and lectures on Hispanic church music.

Chávez-Melo contributed hymns to numerous hymnals, including those of the United Church of Christ and Yale University.

On Sunday, listen to the gentle accompaniment of this hymn, which mimics the rocking back-and-forth of a small boat.

Listen to this hymn as sung by the choir of First-Plymouth Congregational Church, Lincoln, Nebraska by clicking here.

Photo credit: Charles Napier Hemy (1841-1917), The Fisherman (1888), public domain.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 16:54