Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Reflection based on Jn. 21:1-19 and Lk. 5:1-11
The night seems interminable. The boat rocks gently, the water lapping its sides. Periodically the Apostles cast the nets to shake off sleep; all remains quiet under the vast canopy of stars. Finally, the east pales, then blushes. Still nothing. No catch.
We are, of course, on the Sea of Galilee, and though the Lord has risen and appeared to His followers, it seems they do not quite know what to do when Jesus is absent. So, Peter had decided to go fishing. Seven other Apostles jumped in the boat with him. Perhaps Peter needed something to fill his time or wanted to be useful. But one thing is sure: this was a return—however brief—to the way of life he had left behind three years earlier. I wonder if his thoughts turned to that other night without a catch. For a fisherman, to come back in the morning with empty nets was common enough, but that night was different. After that night came the day which brought a life-changing encounter. The day Jesus spoke and Peter lowered his nets for a superabundant catch. The day Jesus called and Peter left his nets to follow Him.
But now there is work to do. The stars fade, the horizon brightens, and the Apostles prepare to return to shore. Then someone on the beach calls to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
“No,” they answer.
“Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”
Peter has heard words like this before; maybe that is why he does not hesitate to comply. John is fully attentive. When they immediately net an enormous catch, he has all the proof he needs. “It is the Lord,” he cries. And Peter responds by jumping into the lake to swim to shore. He cannot stand being apart from Jesus one second longer than necessary.
Jesus sets a meal for the Apostles there on the shore. A conversation between Jesus and Peter follows. Jesus draws from Peter his triple confession of love, healing the wound of his threefold denial, and confirms Peter’s vocation to “tend” and “feed” the Lord’s sheep. Then Jesus says once again, “Follow Me.”
That day, Peter left his nets behind for good. He went on to follow Jesus, shepherding the nascent Church, until he finally gave his life in martyrdom for his beloved Lord.
I would venture to say that everyone reading this reflection has had some kind of encounter with Jesus. It may have been a gentle call to closer discipleship or a lightning-bolt experience which impelled you to come after Him, but somehow, the Lord has drawn each of us toward Him. Might I suggest, in these days leading to Pentecost, that you (and I) spend some time remembering that encounter? In a time of crisis, it is easy to forget past consolations. But even a pandemic cannot erase the fact that God has touched our lives. Remembering His work in our lives helps us to rekindle our faith, hope and love. For as the Lord has worked in the past, He is with us now, and He will continue to work in our lives, even bringing good out of difficulties and trials.
As we await a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us hear those words of Jesus, addressed not only to Peter, but also to each of us: “Follow Me.” He offers abundant grace, abundant life, joy and peace that never fade, an abiding place in the Trinity—in the Love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Then, let us say, “Come, Holy Spirit. Come and help us grow in holiness as faithful disciples of Christ” and prepare to follow Jesus anew.
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR