Fishers of Men

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Friday in the Octave of Easter

John 21:1-14
Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
Opening Prayer: Jesus, thank you for revealing yourself to your disciples so that they could reveal you and your love to the world. Thank you for calling me to be your disciple. Please teach me what you want me to learn in this Gospel passage, and help me to live it out in my life.
Encountering Christ:

  1. Remain with Christ: Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus at first when she questioned the “gardener” (Jesus) at the empty tomb (John 20:15). The disciples in the boat did not immediately recognize Jesus either. The Catechism teaches that after his Resurrection, “the risen Jesus enjoys the sovereign freedom of appearing as he wishes: in the guise of a gardener or in other forms familiar to his disciples, precisely to awaken their faith” (CCC 645). Because Mary Magdalene remained faithful to him through his Passion, he revealed himself to her first (John 20:16). St. John, who also remained with Jesus during his Passion and “who had also lain close to his breast during the supper” (John 21:20), was the first in this passage to recognize him, saying, “It is the Lord.” When we remain with the Lord, in good times and in bad, it is easier for us to recognize his presence in our lives. Scripture teaches, “The Lord is with you when you are with him, and if you seek him he will be found” (2 Chronicles 15:2). Are you able to recognize when God is working in your life? Are your days flexible enough to give you a little time to reflect on the ways that the Holy Spirit is guiding you and working through you and others?
  2. We Are Fruitful with Christ: This Gospel passage speaks to the nature of the Church. It is a hidden parable here at the end of the Gospel of John. The sea is the world, and the boat is the Church. The fish symbolizes those who will come into the Church. Remember that Jesus told his disciples when he first called them that they would become “fishers of men” (Mark 1:17). The net, though full of a multitude of large fish, was not torn, symbolizing the unity and universality of the Church. The Apostles’ evangelical preaching is the “net” that will catch people and convert them to Christ. They were Christ’s very first priests. Notice also that when the Apostles first set out to fish, they caught nothing. Then when Christ directed them, the net was so abundantly full that they had to drag it back to shore. How are we, Jesus’s disciples today, following him and therefore fulfilling the apostolic mission to be “fishers of men?” Do we allow Christ to direct all our actions, making them fruitful?
  3. One Hundred Fifty-Three Fish: In the other Gospel accounts, Jesus gave his disciples the command to proclaim the Gospel to all people (Matthew 28:19, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47). The symbolism of the 153 different fish is the Johannine account of this command. St. Jerome claimed that, at that time, the Greeks had cataloged 153 species of fish, and “that number would indicate that the Apostles were going to win converts to the Church from people of every nation on earth” (The Didache Bible commentary). Ezekiel foretold of fishermen pulling up all the fish of the sea in his vision of the Temple stream. Fresh water flowed from the Temple’s sides into a wonderful stream. He wrote, “Wherever it flows, the river teems with every kind of living creature; fish will abound. Where these waters flow they refresh; everything lives where the river goes. Fishermen will stand along its shore from En-gedi to En-eglaim; it will become a place for drying nets, and it will abound with as many kinds of fish as the Great Sea” (Ezekiel 47:9-10). We can ask ourselves what part we play in carrying out Christ’s command to bring all peoples to Jesus and therefore to Christianize the world. 

Conversing with Christ: Jesus, help me remain near you. Help me notice when you are working in my life. Show me the power and love that you have given me to share with the world. Help me offer all that I do to you so that I may bear fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16). Give me the courage to be your fisher of men, casting my net into the deep (Luke 5:4) in order to share your love and life with all people.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take time to stop and reflect on how God is working in my life and in the world. When I notice God working, I will say, “It is the Lord.” 
For Further Reflection: Watch this trailer for the award-winning documentary by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops on the Catholic priesthood, Fishers of Men. Here is Part 1 and here is Part 2 if you would like to watch the full documentary, which would be good to recommend to someone considering a vocation to the priesthood.
Written by Carey Boyzuck.

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