Third Sunday of Easter (C); April 14, 2013
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 Ps 30 Rv 5:11-14 Jn 21:1-19
Deacon Jim McFadden; Folsom Prison
We continue to read from the wonderfully rich chapters of John which deal with the Resurrection appearances of Jesus. In the 21st chapter we have an account of Jesus appearing to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. As shown in the Easter Vigil, there is a connection with the Genesis account of Creation and the Resurrection. Here we have Jesus creating anew, bringing forth new life, animating, giving life back to his Church.
These disciples have had extraordinary experiences of Jesus: He is alive again after going through a horrible crucifixion. We saw John running to the tomb and Thomas saying, “My Lord and my God!” But, as the story opens, they are back at their ordinary tasks. Here are Peter, Thomas, Nathanial, Zebedee’s sons, and two others. They’ve returned to Galilee from Jerusalem and they’re about their business of fishing again.
Does this happen to us? We can have a very powerful religious experience whether it be a (prison) Kairos retreat, a sermon that may have inspired you, or an encounter with a very saintly person and you resolve to live your life in a new way. You’re on fire with the Spirit, but after a while you find your fervor going down; you return to your ordinary life and your old habits. In some ways, I think that’s what’s being described here.
There’s a very subtle bit of symbolism in this story, which we’re used to seeing in John. There are seven disciples, not twelve. Why seven? It stands for the completed cycle of time, such as the seven days of the week. Heads-up: something is coming to completion!
Peter says, “I am going fishing” and the others say that they will join him. So, they go out at night and they catch nothing. This account just seems so dreary and flat. The fervor’s gone; the spirit’s gone. Where’s the life? Where’s the animation that characterized them in Jerusalem? Sometimes our life just seems dreary and flat as we go through the motions of being human.
But, listen: the Light is about to come on! “When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus” (Jn 21:4). It’s dawn of a new day and there is Jesus. In the first day of the week according to Genesis, God created light and here Jesus is bringing light to the world, which the darkness cannot overcome. This is the dawn of a new life. Jesus is standing on the shore as if he is the light of a new day. He’s going to illumine their lives. That’s the point of the story: Jesus illumines our ordinary life and makes it rich and lively again.
“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” (vs 5-6). We’ve been here before: Jesus enters their lives, they cast their nets, and they catch nothing; now, they do it and they catch EVERYTHING! It’s your ordinary life; it’s your ordinary tasks at Folsom Prison. When the Risen Jesus enters into your life here and now, shines into it, he will take it to a new pitch.
This narrative is like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. Just bring a little bit to Jesus and he will elevate and multiply it. Here is the fish in great abundance. The same thing can happen to you. Bring the little that you have to Jesus. Let him enter your life and shine his light into your darkness and he will draw forth abundant life. All you have to do is to let him in.