Sunday, 18 April 2010

Fishing for God

John 21:1-14

Jesus showed himself again to the disciples. It was by the Sea of Tiberias, and it happened like this: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two more of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said, ‘I’m going fishing.’ They replied, ‘We’ll come with you.’ They went out and got into the boat but caught nothing that night.
It was light by now and there stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in. The disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’ At these words ‘It is the Lord’, Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water. The other disciples came on in the boat, towing the net and the fish; they were only about a hundred yards from land. As soon as they came ashore they saw that there was some bread there, and a charcoal fire with fish cooking on it. Jesus said, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’; they knew quite well it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish. This was the third time that Jesus showed himself to the disciples after rising from the dead.

This is actually only half of the Gospel reading for today - John knows how to write for the big screen, but then he had more time than the others.

You would think that after hearing, reading, studying the Gospels for however many years that there would be, somewhere, a definitive homily or reflection. But there won't be. Or, there may be for the way we are feeling and understanding today, but tomorrow we may hear the Word in a completely different way. This is why Scripture is important both to the Church and to the individual; there is a message for each one of us, every day.

Today, the phrase that stuck was 'I'm going fishing'

Poor Simon Peter, a man I never liked very much, but who has become more and more of a friend. At last the disciples have received enough of the Spirit to venture outside the locked room. Peter, presumably is being treated as their leader, and for the want of anywhere else to go he is taking them home.

Surely, he is doing his best but he has still not changed very much. He doesn't see the big picture; doesn't think outside the box; doesn’t like being unsure; he doesn’t really like new things or to not know where he is going. He has leadership skills (he had his own boat) and he can be brave, that’s not in dispute, but with Jesus it suited him best to be the second in command and to leave the why’s and wherefore’s of what was going on to the Lord.

At the moment Simon Peter doesn’t know what is going on; the Resurrection brought Jesus back to him - the same but 'not the same' Jesus; and remember they still haven’t talked about ‘that night’ when Peter knew he had betrayed his best friend.

The rest of the group may be happier now they are travelling; the confidence of being out in the sunlight; living in watchful hope for the Lord to get back in touch as surely he will. But you get the impression there has been too much sitting, thinking, waiting time for Simon Peter.

So the practical man in him says ‘I’m going fishing’ and see it is ‘I’m’; he hasn’t invited the sons of Zebedee or the others; maybe he didn’t want them along; maybe he had had enough of talking and crying and wondering – he needed the space; he needed to be 'doing'. But, whether he meant it or not - it becomes a rallying cry for the others; to remember who they are; what their strengths are; to work together for a purpose'

And that is exactly what they needed; as Paul later tells his communities ‘you can’t sit around waiting for God – you have lives to live; you have work to do’.

There is this saying that people use - a 'clever' phrase- I use it myself when I feel I have to make excuses for the stillness of meditation or a quiet place - ‘We are human beings not human doings’.

But in actual fact we are both. To sit in a problem; allowing it to envelop and take over your life is not asking for God's help; to make no effort with the gifts and graces we have been given suggests that we don't believe God can help us. Because what God has already given us - is not enough.

We have to be ourselves; we have to be grown-ups; we have to get out there on the waves of our own life. Bravely taking responsibility, taking chances. Sometimes we will be getting it right and sometimes getting it wrong. sometimes finding ourselves adrift in a boat with an empty net. But only there does God gets the opportunity to guide us; to lead us to the fertile waters where our gifts can bring a real harvest.

It is there that God can share our lives – and make a space in our lives where we can be together; where we can be given the stability, the warmth and the feeding that we need.


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