gone fishing

Apr 17, 2020

Every day of this Easter Octave week the gospel readings present one of the resurrection encounters between Jesus and his disciples. Today’s reading tells of an early morning as Jesus’ friends return after unfruitful night’s fishing.

Keep the context in mind. These disciples will have some guilt at their part in 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 even doubting their earlier experience of the risen Jesus. One sign of their uncertainty is that some of them have returned to their previous work as fishermen.

Peter has already been forgiven by Jesus, and this personal experience of undeserved love has transformed him into a fearless preacher of the power of Christ.

Peter doesn’t pull any punches in today’s first reading when standing as a prisoner before the rulers, elders, scribes and Annas the high priest:

“If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence, today. 

And then early one morning at the Sea of Tiberius 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, “Have you caught anything friends?” 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 ordinary kind of 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 try again, 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!”

Well those are some of my reflections for what they are worth. But these lockdown days give an unprecedented opportunity for us to experience Jesus personally. Deprived of our normal encouragements of friends, work and study mates and the Liturgy of the Church we have an unprecedented opportunity to turn directly to Jesus…

An Invitation:

  • 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 (go fishing again) and one response (dropping the nets) 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.


I offer two options for Lectio today, the first is with one reading of the gospel for today, and the second with the passage read twice. As a result they are of different lengths, the second also with some longer pauses for reflection.

Friday Lectio Divina  (15 minutes)

Friday Lectio Divina  (25 minutes)


  1. Hi
    Thank you so much for your meditation on the gospels each day.
    I am blessed to be in a Lectio Divino Group and have slowly developed this into my prayer life (with the occasional nodding
    Of!,…!!!) We do keep our group together through emails, faithfully sent each week through people in our parish, in the ChCh West areas ,which for me is St Terese’s Blessings on you for you John and than you to for the beautiful art It helps my meditation.

  2. Thank you Father for today’s Lectio Divina. It’s great to have this time of relaxation with Jesus!

  3. Thank you, Father John, for being there on the shoreline of our lives again this morning.

    The eclectic array of your presentations engaged my imagination and gave light to my emotions and thoughts. I experienced the awareness of being gifted with the way to evolve my spiritual reality.

    John August Swanson’s awe-inspiring visual portrayal of St John’s Gospel story brought the deeper truth to life for me. The multiplicity of fish in the net symbolized for me my emotions, thoughts and perceptions that I experience in my daily life and reminded me of the spiritual energy I require for my spiritual growth.

    I am very grateful for the opportunities available to me again today to hear and respond to Jesus’ promptings ……
    Meditation, scripture, prayer, reflection, stillness and silence, being in nature, journaling, art, poetry, listening to music, Film, virtual counselling, conversations with companions, family and friends – but a few of the jewels in the net of the sea of life to nurture my soul. +

  4. Thank you Fr John for your ongoing commitment to this wonderful ministry of sharing your personal reflections on the readings each day, which in turn spark the insights of so many others. There is a great richness here which reminds us that ‘we are all in this together’ on so many levels and especially in these uncertain times for so many people. Like those early disciples we are very much on a journey of deepening our relationship with the risen Jesus.

  5. What a gift you’ve given me of stopping and being aware of Jesus who is always present. The invitation to come from my daily work, ‘in my wet clothes’ and enjoy a bbq with Him.

  6. Thank you Fr John. In many situations I knew that it is Jesus, sense that it is Jesus and I like the disciples is not bold enough to ask who are you…we are in this journey together of our faith journey our engaging in our own reality of locked in and locked down that I lost the visitation of the transformed/Risen Jesus in ordinary happenings of the day and be aware of what the other feels, the sufferings etc. Jesus grace with inner sight, inner courage to recognise that I am locked down and locked in in my world therefore I need your you

  7. Thank you Fr. John for highlighting the word “Friends” !!!!! I have heard the piece of scripture many times but upon reading your interpretation today felt a sudden awareness of the kind and forgiving nature of Jesus that we are all striving to find.

    Thank you also for the invitations at the end of each days reflection – these are most helpful in everyday life.


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