Friday, April 01, 2005

Gospel for Friday Within the Octave of Easter

From: John 21:1-14

The Miraculous Draught of Fish

[1] After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and He revealed Himself in this way. [2] Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. [3] Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.

[4] Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. [5] Jesus said to them, "Children, have you any fish?" They answered Him, "No." [6] He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish. [7] That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. [8] But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

[9] When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. [10] Jesus said to them, "Bring some fish that you have just caught." [11] So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. [12] Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. [13] Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. [14] This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.

1-3. There are some very significant things in this account: we find the disciples "by the Sea of Tiberias", which means they have done what the risen Christ had told them to do (cf. Matthew 28:7); they are together, which shows that there is a close fraternity among them; Peter takes the initiative, which in a way shows his authority; and they have gone back to their old jobs as fishermen, probably waiting for our Lord to give them new instructions.

This episode is reminiscent of the first miraculous draught of fish (cf. Luke 5:1-11), where our Lord promised Peter He would make him a fisher of men; now He is going to confirm his mission as visible head of the Church.

4-8. The risen Jesus goes in search of His disciples, to encourage them and tell them more about the great mission He has entrusted to them. This account describes a very moving scene, our Lord together with His own: "He passes by, close to His Apostles, close to those souls who have given themselves to Him, and they do not realize He is there. How often Christ is not only near us, but in us; yet we still live in such a human way!... They, the disciples, recall what they have heard so often from their Master's lips: fisher of men, apostles. And they realize that all things are possible, because it is He who is directing their fishing.

"Whereupon `the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord!' Love, love is farsighted. Love is the first to appreciate kindness. The adolescent Apostle, who felt a deep and firm affection for Jesus, because he loved Christ with all the purity and tenderness of a heart that had never been corrupted, exclaimed: `It is the Lord!'"

"`When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes and sprang into the sea.' Peter personifies faith. Full of marvelous daring, he leaps into the sea. With a love like John's and a faith like Peter's, what is there that can stop us?" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 265-266).

9-14. We can sense here the deep impression this appearance of the risen Jesus must have made on the Apostles, and how sweet a memory St. John kept of it. After His resurrection Jesus showed the same tenderness as characterized His public ministry. He makes use of natural things--the fire, the fish, etc.--to show that He really is there, and He maintains the familiar tone typical of when He lived with the disciples.

The Fathers and Doctors of the Church have often dwelt on the mystical meaning of this episode: the boat is the Church, whose unity is symbolized by the net which is not torn; the sea is the world, Peter in the boat stands for supreme authority of the Church, and the number of fish signifies the number of the elect (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, "Commentary on St. John, in loc.").
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland.

Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

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