By Sister Marion Moeser OSF
One of the stories that has always interested me is near the end of John’s gospel. In 20:1-14, after Jesus’ death and first resurrection appearances, Peter and six other disciples are fishing in the Sea of Tiberias. They had worked all night and caught nothing, yet a stranger on the shore tells them to keep fishing and then they caught a huge number of fish. The beloved disciple (an unnamed one of the other six) tells Peter, “It is the Lord!” So Peter jumps into the water heading ashore. Jesus tells the disciples to bring some of the fish they’ve caught and Peter complies. Jesus invites them to come and have breakfast. It is then that the disciples knew it was the Lord. “Jesus took bread and gave it to them and also the fish” (13). As in Luke’s Emmaus story, they recognized Jesus at the breaking of the bread.
Missing the meal element, I had always just pondered Jesus cooking a meal over a charcoal fire, wondering how he would have done this. But in the context of the whole gospel, offering bread and fish to the disciples has echoes of the previous feeding story of bread and fish to the multitudes in chapter 6:5-15. Just as in that feeding story, the charcoal-cooked breakfast has eucharistic overtones. Yet there is an added detail in the breakfast story. Jesus asks for some of their fish and these, then, were a contribution to the meal. This is the detail I ponder now.
The eucharistic overtones of this narrative imply that the disciples were making their contribution from the results of their daily lives and work. In the Synoptic Gospels, the call of the disciples included becoming “fishers of people.” Their missionary work included evangelization. Today we are asked to look to our own invitation from the Risen Lord to keep “fishing” in our daily lives, to be aware that our Christian lives are a form of evangelization. When we come to Eucharist, we come “bearing fish” – the times our lives have inspired others to gospel living or when we have spoken to others about Jesus. Sometimes, we hear much about coming to Eucharist with our sins and our need for forgiveness. All well and good; but perhaps we might be reminded also of coming with the example of our gospel living – our deeds and words of spreading the kingdom of God – our fish. If attention to this took place at our Eucharist, perhaps worshippers would experience a positive, energetic presence of God and look upon one another with gratitude and encouragement.