Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gone Fishing

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.

It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land.

As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.
John 21:1-14

When I heard this gospel read at Mass yesterday, there were a few things that struck me as though I had never heard them before. One thing was that 153. As Father said yesterday, "It doesn't say 'hundreds,' or 'about 150,' or 'purt near a hunnerd and fifty-fahve,' (I assure you that this is not Father's usual accent.) but 153. Well, it must mean something, but there seem to have been many interpretations over the centuries. You can see some of them if you go here and scroll down. I seem to remember hearing sometime or other that it symbolized all the nations of the world, and that seems to be as good a guess as any, but I guess it will have to remain a mystery. If I had written this gospel, one might perhaps assume that I had been thinking, "Hmm. If I put a precise number there instead of rounding it off, people will puzzle over it for all time," but John doesn't seem to have been a whimsical sort of guy.

The most arresting passage was that which spoke of the exuberance of Peter, who on hearing John say that it was the Lord, jumped immediately into the water. He didn't worry about what the other disciples were doing. He didn't worry about the fish. All he cared about was getting to Jesus as fast as could. Like Mary, he chose the better part. And this was the man that Jesus chose to feed His sheep, the one who was heedless of all save his Lord.

When I was thinking about this earlier today, I remembered how I had almost had to be compelled to go to Mass yesterday. The only time that I can go is during my lunch hour, and it makes lunch a very rushed affair. I kept the car so that I could go--maybe--if things worked out. I went back and forth in my mind all morning long, and in the end went rather reluctantly. The only thing that got me there at all was this persistent thought that I ought to go. One wonders why the Lord would even want me under those conditions, but apparently He did. How different from Peter's enthusiasm.

Another thing I realized was that although this was the third time that they had seen Jesus since His resurrection, they still did not recognize Him until He performed the miracle. I think I must have always had some kind of hazy notion that once He appeared to them, He was around them pretty much for all of the 40 days, but apparently this is not so. They never seemed to really know if they would see Him again, and they were surprised when they did. It must have been nerve-wracking for the apostles. It makes their experience during this time much more like ours. I can imagine Peter, after waiting anxiously for Jesus to show up again, saying, "I can't bear this anymore. I'm going fishing."

And finally, there is that lovely invitation, "Come and have breakfast."



  1. Charcoal-grilled fish...mmm...

    I've sometimes wondered about those 153 fish, too. It's a weird number, in that it doesn't strike one immediately as having any symbolic import.

    I really like the sort of child-like quality of that second picture, especially little Peter in the water.

  2. Yes, I particularly liked that, too. It was hard to find a picture of this scripture passage that emphasized Peter like these two and while I wanted to use the one that only showed that incident, I couldn't give up that little guy swimming to Jesus, and apparently bringing his own fish.


  3. Sometimes I take that ho-humming hesitancy about going to Mass as a sign that I really should go. I bet Old Scratch doesn't like that very much.

    Of course, he'd like it even less if I heeded the sign more consistently than I do.