Sometimes the storm abates for a while and we enjoy peaceful waters–moments in our trials where we can ponder the goodness of God.
At that time, 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.
Once or twice a year, my husband spends a few days at a monastery in prayer and reflection. He always brings home a gift for each of the kids and some really delicious fudge made by the monks. Last summer, he presented Evie with an icon depicting the disciples casting their nets into the sea. They sat on her bed discussing the image. My husband encouraged her not to worry about what she would do in the future. God had a plan for her life. She simply needed to throw down her net and let Him fill it with fish.
Fast forward to April 10th of this year.
My dear friend relayed to me that she had to leave mass briefly because she was crying after hearing this portion of the same gospel:
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.”
Upon hearing the reading she was deeply moved by the fact that when Peter saw the risen Lord he was so anxious to be in His presence that he jumped out of the boat and ran even though the boat was not far from shore. He couldn’t wait one more second. My friend pictured me racing to greet Evie like that on the shores of Heaven.
Me…waiting on the shores of the Sea of Galilee
In May of 2015 I took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group from Eagle Eye Ministries. One of the most moving experiences I had was at the very location of this Gospel reading. We celebrated mass outside near the sea early in the morning. The breeze was gently blowing and the sun was rising up to warm our backs.
After mass, I entered the church of the Primacy of St. Peter. A large rock is situated in front of the altar identified as the “Mensa Christi” or “Table of Christ.” This is the very rock where Jesus is believed to have shared breakfast with his disciples on the shore after His resurrection.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, soon of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.”
As I knelt before that rock, I began to weep. I was not the type of person who used to cry easily or often (before Evie died) but for some reason I wept. I prayed for those who grieve. My stepdad had just passed away in March so I was especially thinking of my mom and praying for her. I contemplated how awful Peter must have felt that Jesus’ last memory of him was his denial. Sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to say a proper goodbye to those we love. I pulled out my notebook and penned these words:
“In Peter’s confusion, emptiness and grief Jesus fills his net with fish and gives him the opportunity to express his love for him as many times as he denied him.”
A number of weeks ago, my five year-old presented me with the above picture. If you examen it closely, you can see Jesus with three disciples. They are in a boat. There’s a net in the water full of fish.
Hmmm….What are you trying to tell me through all of this Lord?
Imagine how St. Peter felt. He had given up his entire life to follow Jesus and now what? Life as he knew it had come to a complete halt and none of it makes any sense. He can’t see the big picture…he just feels heartbroken, confused, and guilty for denying his Lord. What is he to do but go fishing? It’s what he knows and maybe it will bring comfort.
Peter is completely spent…and he throws down his net. But he can’t catch a thing on his own.
Until Jesus shows up. And what does Jesus do? He fills up Peter’s net, He feeds him, He gives him the chance for reconciliation.
Isn’t it just like Jesus to know what we need and give it to us exactly when we need it?
Jesus is standing on the shore of our hearts. In fact, our resurrected Lord is always standing there, whether we recognize Him or not.
The longing and the emptiness we feel in our suffering is a cue….a cue to run into His arms and to let Him fill our nets. To simply tell Him we love Him and allow His love and forgiveness to wash over us.
If you think there is no way you can make it through another moment of your day, if you can do nothing but put one foot in front of the other, if you have no idea how your life is going to pan out, then you are right where Jesus wants you.
Jesus took Peter’s empty net, filled it with fish, and built a Church that is still standing more than two thousand years later. Imagine what He can do with our empty nets!
“It is simple to become a saint. You have only to surrender yourself to God from moment to moment, to think of nothing but him, to pay no attention to what is not your concern, and as a result, heaven immediately enters the soul, because its emptiness attracts the fullness of God.”
Mother Agnes of Jesus, O.C.D.
(sister of St. Thérèse)