When Jesus calls the fishermen Peter and Andrew, he tells them, “Come follow me.” In response, the new disciples experience a new desire and put down their nets to follow Jesus (Matthew 4:19–20). We, too, can also have various “nets” that can limit our capacity to follow Jesus more closely.
One way to pray with this passage is to consider the question: What are my own nets? In the Principle and Foundation, St. Ignatius names wealth, honor, health, and long life as among those goods to which we ought to remain indifferent so that we can follow Christ. To these we might add: security, emotional self-protection, keeping up with social expectations, or others. Some of our nets might be common to many people in our society, such as consumerism or careerism. Others can be personal patterns that we repeat over the course of a lifetime, such as difficulty in trusting due to past experiences of broken trust.
Ignatian contemplation uses the imagination to facilitate God’s communication with us. To help us understand our nets, we can imagine ourselves as participants in the Gospel scene. I might begin by imagining myself in a boat, repairing my fisherman’s nets. What are the details of what the boat looks like? What color is it? What kind of a boat is it? Is the weather cool, warm, or windy? Who are my companions? When Jesus walks over, we can spend a little while imagining what he looks like. What is Jesus wearing? What expression does he have as he looks at me? What words does he speak? How do I feel about all that I see, hear, and experience?
One variation on imaginative prayer is to pray longer with a single image within a scene to allow God to speak to us through it. For example, I might ask God to help me to see better what my own nets are by looking more closely at just the fishing nets. Do I see money tucked into the net and recognize that my desire for financial security gets in the way of following a deeper desire? Is there a mirror that reflects some area of self-concern? A photo of a family member where I struggle to let go of relationship or need to reconcile? We can let our imaginative prayer be spontaneous and even playful, going “off script” in order to make space for God’s communication to us.
This kind of prayer can help us to strengthen our own sense of purpose and to let go of what is unnecessary. Through setting down our nets, we can come to deepen our sense of God’s call. God patiently awaits us.