Every day of this Easter Octave week the gospels give us another resurrection encounter between Jesus and his disciples. Today it is early morning as Jesus’ friends return after unfruitful night’s fishing.
Keep the context in mind: These disciples will have some guilt at the tragic death of their friend a few days earlier feeling responsible because they abandoned Jesus when he most needed them.
They have heard that he has risen from the dead and he has appeared to them (ref. John 20) but they are still struggling to know what this means. It’s probable that they are still doubting their earlier experience of the risen Jesus. One sign of their uncertainty is that they have reverted to lives as fishermen.
Jesus calls to them from the shore: “Have you caught anything friends?”
After they had proved that they were not good friends (denying, abandoning etc.) Jesus still calls them “friends!”
I like the ordinariness of the question. Jesus asks them not about their level of faith and love (that will come soon) but about fishing, something they knew about, their ordinary practical human reality. Jesus asks the same question that any of us might ask of friends or strangers in the same situation.
His question gives them a chance to express their feeling at their lack of success. I imagine that there would have been frustration and humour, and even laughter when Jesus (even though at this stage they did not know this was Jesus) suggests: “Throw out the net to starboard and you’ll find something.”
It’s significant that they were so desperate for fish that this suggestion of one they thought to be a stranger was enough to motivate them to action even though they were tired.
Their success was immediate: “they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in” leading John to say to Peter “It is the Lord!”
- Think of a similar situation in your own life, a time when you have been working hard with no success. You feel like a failure, and the lack of good result means that things will be a bit tough for you (financially, in relationships, at work, in health) in the hours or weeks ahead. Perhaps many people are suggesting many things to you, and you are not sure how your desire for God, your life of Christian faith, relates to your practical human struggle.
- Now that you are thinking of a specific example from your own life, feel the feelings associated with this struggle or failure. Speak to Jesus asking him to show you the way forward, and adding that you want to be clear that his response (even if it comes from an unlikely and unexpected person or thought) is really from him.
- Over the next few hours keep in mind that while in this gospel one suggestion and response is recorded, the chances are that there were many moments that morning when Jesus gave promptings or made suggestions and his friends responded. So be open to many opportunities today to hear and respond to Jesus’ promptings.
Image above: John August Swanson. Detail at this link.