…and I ask us now to think about how we can bring that net to the shore, how we can bring those people who are coming to know Jesus to Jesus at the shore, that they may know him more fully, that they may sit and listen to what he has to say to them, that they may eat with him and share their life with him.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
There are two quite important things going on in our gospel today, and they are two vital things to understand here. Scripture is speaking to the Church.
The first thing scripture is telling us is that the resurrection is real. It is not some myth. It is not some thing that somebody dreamed up. Jesus is not appearing to people as some sort of spirit or hallucination. The resurrection is a real and bodily one.
And the second thing we are being told is to pay attention to the universality of the Church.
So let’s take that first thing. Now, you would first think of this story and you would think of Jesus telling the disciples much as he did when he first met them on the Sea of Galilee, when he told them where to throw the net and hauled in that big fish that here was a miracle.
But in actual fact, this is a very common practise in the way that you fish just off the coast, you will have the fisherman in the boat and you’ll have a spotter nearby who is looking into the water at a different angle. Jesus can see what the disciples in the boat cannot. That is our first lesson. We the Church, are in this boat together. And if we think that we can do anything on our own, then we are truly mistaken.
We have to pay attention to what Jesus is telling us because he can see things that we can’t. If we expect people to come to know Jesus, to come back to knowing Jesus after leaving him behind, then we can’t do that by sitting in our own boat together, looking over the side, hoping to find some people to bring in. We must pay attention to Jesus. How do we do that? Well, we do that through the regular pattern of daily worship.
And you can do that at home, or you can do that here in Church. But you start the day feet on the ground, cross yourself, our Father, you read scripture, you pray, you spend time with Jesus so that you can hear what he is telling you to do on a Sunday.
By coming to Church, we are all in the boat together, but we listen to what God is telling us in scripture, and then we go to Jesus. That’s a really important aspect of what’s going on in this gospel. They hear Jesus, they do as Jesus says, and then they travel to him.
They go to Jesus.
It’s exactly what we do at Mass every single day. We hear Jesus in the scripture, and then we go to him in the altar and we eat with him. And we are made strong in eating with Jesus, in being nourished by Jesus, by listening to Jesus. This gospel is starting out by telling us that we cannot go off and do our own thing.
We must always be centred in Jesus. And a nice little aside, Peter, my favourite disciple, he recognises, he sees that it is Jesus and he’s immediately over the side of the boat, running to Jesus as fast as he can.
The disciples then bring the boat, bring the catch to Jesus in a more sedate manner. We are all different in the way that we go to Jesus and we need to encourage and love one another in the different ways we come to Jesus. Now, I know full well that I’m probably very much Peter, and if I see Jesus, I’m moving the side of the boat and running towards him, but that would be no good if I didn’t know that everybody here in our family was coming up behind me with the boat and with the catch.
The second part of the gospel points us to the universality of the Church. Now, what do I mean by that? It’s quite an academic esoteric thing, but nothing is in John’s gospel by accident. And one of the pieces of very specific information we have in our gospel is how many fish are caught.
How many fish are caught? Tell me… 153. I love testing you. You all look absolutely petrified when I ask you a question about the scripture we’ve just heard.
Why is that number so specific? Well, it could be that we know what it is because they had to divide up the fish and share them between them. But more likely, St Jerome writes in the fourth century and I think he nails it. He says 153 is scientifically, remember, this is very early period – how many different kinds of fish there are in the sea.
So at that point when these Gospels were being written, when Jesus was around, and even as far as the fourth century, the common understanding in science was that there were 153 different fish in the ocean. The point being made here is that Jesus sends us out as disciples and everybody is brought together in the same net, all of us, all 153 different species of fish are caught in that one net.
And the next line is vital ‘and the net did not break’. We are in that net together with Jesus being brought to Jesus.
That is our job. The disciples in the boat, that’s us. Our job is to cast our net wide. That net encompasses everybody. Nobody is outside the Grace of the Church and of Jesus Christ. And then as that net is hauled in, we go to Jesus, all of us.
There’s a little side point in the gospel being made here as well. 153 different types of fish, but we are not all brought to Jesus and made the same. An octopus can’t pretend to be a shark, a shark can’t be a trout. We are all made differently by God. God knows us by our name and we all have a job to do for Jesus.
That is what we discover when we are brought to him.
My encouragement to you this week is to take joy in how good we are as a Church family of casting that net out of our boat, the boat of St Anselm, of how good we are, of making sure that everybody is caught up in that net. And I ask us now to think about how we can bring that net to the shore, how we can bring those people who are coming to know Jesus to Jesus at the shore, that they may know him more fully, that they may sit and listen to what he has to say to them, that they may eat with him and share their life with him.
And finally, I would just like to encourage more of you to be more like Peter. More of us need to jump out of the side and run to Jesus with enthusiasm and love and joy.