John 21:1-17 NRSVue
1After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he showed himself in this way. 2Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3Simon 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.
4Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach, but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” 6He said to them, “Cast the net to 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 because there were so many fish. 7That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he had taken it off, and jumped into the sea. 8But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
9When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them, and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the 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.
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Some thoughts on this scripture
That number, 153, has fascinated commentators, convinced that it must be symbolic. Saint Jerome held that there are 153 species of fish, so 153 signifies a certain totality; and the story means that some day all the peoples of the world would be gathered together to Jesus Christ. Lord, I would rather contemplate you preparing breakfast, ensuring that each of the weary fishermen is comfortable, and then, as the sun rises over the lake, opening to us the possibility of a new dawn beyond death.
'It is the Lord', 'The Lord is near', 'Come Lord Jesus.' Many of the mantra sentences of prayer can deepen our times of prayer. Peter's heart must have jumped higher than the fish when he realised that Jesus was alive, and once again inviting them to follow him. Every time he said, 'It is the Lord' for the rest of his life, he would know that Jesus' real presence near him. . Choose your mantra and practice it often!
You might imagine yourself walking on a beach towards a group around a fire. The smell of breakfast is in the air. You realise that it is Jesus and his group of followers. He has been raised from death. As you come near the group, you notice Jesus turns towards you and you hear his invitation, 'Come and have breakfast'. Let that picture guide your prayer today.
This is 'the morning after'. The disciples think they are back to square one. They revert to their old occupations, the adventure with Jesus apparently over. In our times of rejection, he is present, waiting for us to recognize him and find new hope, a new beginning.
Often in the Gospels, Jesus shares meals with his friends. We see him here as host, solicitous of the disciples' need - for food but, more deeply, for his companionship. This is what he offers in the nourishment of prayer and in the Eucharist.
The disciples labouring all night and catching nothing is a little like what prayer can seem to us. Jesus encouraged them not to give up, to stay with the task. He knows there is benefit for me too, if I persevere.