I have gone fishing once in my life. I thought it was the most boring activity ever. Fishing is one of those activities that you need to truly enjoy the silence and the slowness of it. We spent the majority of the day on that lake and I caught nothing. My friend had caught the tiniest of fishes and threw it back in the lake. If the purpose of going fishing is to catch fish, I would classify our trip as unsuccessful. And for those people that enjoy the activity of fishing simply for the leisurely pleasure of fishing, whether they catch fish or not, I do not understand and can’t see how the act of fishing is to be exciting.
At the end of that day, we packed up all the fishing gear into the car and I thought to myself, in my frustration, “I’m not doing that again.” I imagine the disciples had a little bit of that frustration after spending an entire night at sea and not catching anything. For the disciples fishing wasn’t a leisurely activity, as it was for my friend; fishing for them was a necessity of life. Having just lost a truly special friend—Jesus, who was crucified by the Romans—they were also in grief.
In the Gospel of today seven disciples go out fishing at night but catch nothing. At dawn the resurrected Jesus appears to them and asks, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” After they admit that they could not catch any fish, Jesus tells them to drop the nets on the right side of the boat, and behold, they catch 153 large fish. John, the beloved disciple, is the first to realize that it is the resurrected Lord. And Peter, at hearing John say this, jumps into the Sea of Tiberias in all his clothes and swims to shore to be with Jesus.
When Peter reaches the shore, he finds that Jesus is in the middle of a barbecue on the beach! Jesus had a fire going with fish and bread on it. He invites the disciples to have breakfast with him. Peter with immense strength brings over the catch of 153 large fish to Jesus and all the disciples break bread together. I would consider their fishing trip a success.
A few things I will admit about my own fishing trip: it was hard, it took dedication and patience, it took the cooperation of nature and my own skills together. I have the fortune of just going to the fish market if I want fish—I don’t need to struggle like the disciples had struggled throughout the night. However, I struggle in other ways in life. I have difficulties at work, I have strained relationships with people, I fall into temptation. In all these instances I have to remember that I am not alone. Jesus is with me. If my human-way is too difficult in accomplishing the task, I need to listen to God’s voice and follow the way He tells me to do things. This is precisely what the disciples did—they listened to Jesus’ command!
How much easier life is when we listen to the Lord! We find that Jesus makes all things easier and that God already knows what we truly need. Just as Jesus knew that after a long night at sea the disciples needed a good meal, a meal being prepared in which Jesus already had all the necessities to feed the disciples. I imagine that beach barbecue to be amazing, for that fish and bread to be sweet as honey, for the company and love shared to be everlasting. We may come across obstacles on our mission to build up the Kingdom. But Jesus will help us through. There will be times where we feel unequipped, but like the charcoal fire on the beach burning hot, know that the Holy Spirit is burning a light within you to do the Father’s will. Like the seven disciples bringing fish to Jesus, we too are called to bring souls to Christ. We do this together as a family.
“When you are totally consumed by the Eucharistic fire, then you will be able more consciously to thank God, who has called you to become part of His family.”–Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati
To God, nothing is ever “unsuccessful.” Those moments which we don’t see as “successful” have a role to play in our formation. I needed to go fishing and not catch anything to understand how patience and cooperation of nature go together—God is in control. Even the death of God’s only Son was a success because it was part of His divine will. Through Christ’s death the sins of the world were forgiven, and through his Resurrection we partake in a share of eternal life in heaven. The beauty of this mission to be “fishers of men” (Matt 4:19) is that we get to fish with our friends. And bringing souls to Christ is always exciting.