Today’s Gospel is quite vivid and at the same time mysterious. The disciples at first do not recognize Jesus on the shore, but for some reason they listen to his advice to cast their net on the right side of the boat. When he sees the huge catch of fish, Peter realizes that it was the Lord who was speaking to them. Despite the huge number of fish – 153 – the net is not broken. Jesus then offers them bread and fish, and then symbolically forgives Peter for his denial and commissions him to feed the flock.
In the course of our daily activities, it may be that we do not recognize the presence of Jesus, just as those disciples did not recognize him on the shore. Perhaps unconsciously, we re-spond to his invitation to carry out his mission in the world, and we recognize that he has been with us all along. We also be-lieve that Jesus continues to feed us as he fed the disciples, through his Word and through the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.
The mysterious number of 153 fish has been the subject of speculation for centuries. Saint Jerome claimed that it repre-sented the known number of fish species at the time. If that’s correct, perhaps the story is meant to symbolize that the church (the net) is big enough and strong enough to include all people (the fish).
We proudly call ourselves Catholic, which in Greek means uni-versal. We are called to be a welcoming and inclusive communi-ty. As James Joyce wrote in Finnegan’s Wake¸ Catholic means “Here comes everybody.”
As a parish this might be a good opportunity to ask ourselves: Are we truly Catholic, welcoming all, and including everyone in the “net” of our community? As we have been fed by the Lord, do we “feed the sheep” by offering the nourishment of fellow-ship to all?
Fr. Jerry