I’ve seen the sign “Gone Fishing” only on films, but never in real life. You could just imagine a class of students turning up for a lesson to find the teacher has put on the door “Gone Fishing” – they wouldn’t be a teacher for very long!
So, it is with the disciples in the Gospel today. If their ministry was to account for anything it would have to be enduring. Not something that could be easily dropped for another activity.
That, however, was the case, and we see the scene set where Peter and the disciples “Gone Fishing” – back in the boat, but, alas, catching nothing! (As usual!)
Again, Jesus appears. This time he is not recognised, but still the disciples follow his directions as to where the net is to be cast. In this Gospel obedience precedes recognition and in obedience the disciples discover “that it is the Lord.”
The disciples are obedient servants of the Lord and their leadership, if to endure, must be based on servant leadership. We too are asked to be obedient to the prompts of Jesus in our day to day living and so as Albert Schweitzer wrote:
“He commands those who obey him. He commands. And to those who obey him, whether simple or wise, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they will pass through… they shall learn in their own experience who he is.”
For the disciples and for us there is a hope-filled prospect that when we obey the voice of the Lord, the catch is great; we draw people to the Risen Lord and to the Church – the community of salvation.
The imagery of the net not torn suggests that we need not be fearful of the diverse and growing company of people involved in the Church. Unity is maintained.
Once again on shore, the disciples are welcomed by Jesus, and he provides them breakfast. This is a post-resurrection Eucharist that gives sustenance to the disciples and support for their ongoing mission. This is a time of renewal for them. When approaching the altar of the Lord, we too can be confident in that sustenance and support that the same Risen Lord provides in times of need.
Finally, the Gospel ends with the reinstatement of Peter as both leader and follower. The questions asked of Peter direct him to the reality that discipleship and servant leadership leads him to a life he might not necessarily have chosen otherwise. For Peter, following Jesus means carrying out the mission of care for Jesus’ flock: the Human Family.
For Peter and the disciples, the “Gone Fishing” sign has gone – never to be seen again! May the apostolic zeal continue to enliven the Church to welcome new members through its doors – no “Gone Fishing” sign in sight.
Fr Stephen Berecz