The Humility of the Fishers of Men

In the story of the woman at the well, St. John notes that “His disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat” (Jn 4:8). St. John Chrysostom remarks: “Herein is shown the humility of Christ; He is left alone. It was in His power, had He pleased, not to send away all, or, on their going away, to leave others in their place to wait on Him. But He did not choose to have it so: for in this way He accustomed His disciples to trample upon pride of every kind. However someone will say, Is humility in fishermen and tent-makers so great a matter? But these very men were all on a sudden raised to the most lofty situation upon earth, that of friends and followers of the Lord of the whole earth. And men of humble origin, when they arrive at dignity, are on this very account more liable than others to be lifted up with pride; the honour being so new to them. Our Lord, therefore, to keep His disciples humble, taught them in all things to subdue themselves.” (Catena Aurea, IV-I)

Theophylact writes: “He chose not from the teachers of the law, but out of the multitude, and by calling, fishermen; babes, that is, as devoid of malice.” (Catena, III-I, on Lk 10:21)

St. Ambrose, commenting on the calling of the apostles remarks: “Not the wise men, not the rich, not the noble, but He chose to send out fishermen and publicans, that they might not seem to turn men to their grace by riches or by the influence of power and rank, and that the force of truth, not the graces of oratory, might prevail.” (Catena, III-I, on Lk 6:13-16)

St. Augustine says of Christ: “He chose the foolish, to confound the world. . . . He sought not to gain the fisherman through the orator, but by the fisherman the emperor. The great Cyprian was an orator; but Peter was a fisherman before him; and through him not only the orator, but the emperor, believed.” (Catena, IV-I, on Jn 1:34-51)

Likewise, St. Bede the Venerable writes: “Fishers and unlettered men are sent to preach, that the faith of believers might be thought to lie in the power of God, not in eloquence or in learning.” (Catena, II, on Mk 1:16)

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, 4 vols. (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841-45).

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