In the Maronite Liturgical Calendar, the fourth Sunday and week of the season of the Glorious Resurrection is being celebrated. The encounter that is portrayed happens after Jesus appears to Thomas who doubted He had risen.
John the evangelist says that this is the third time Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. In His mercy and compassion, Jesus stands on the beach watching His disciples as they try to regain hope in midst of their grief, by going fishing. He calls out to His children and friends as He knows their need.
This sounds familiar for us as followers of Jesus. When all hope seems lost and there is nothing that can prove to us otherwise, we lose sight of the One who gives us life. Yet Jesus, who is every present and aware of our hopelessness, is always waiting to give of Himself to us, and repeatedly. And likewise calls out to us, His children and friends.
When Jesus first calls Peter and some of His disciples to follow Him, what were they doing? They were fishing! And they were unable to get even one catch. And who was it at the beach who told them to cast their net on the right side for a catch? Jesus! How often also do we find ourselves in this situation! Jesus is talking to the depths of our hearts at this very moment.
He knows how difficult it is to believe in him more so as we cannot physically see him, yet he invites us to reflect on our first personal encounter with Him when we “left everything and followed Him.” (Luke 5:11)
The Old Testament reading that is read on this Sunday, during the Liturgy of the Word, is from the Book of Genesis. We hear in the scripture Gods command: “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures.” (Gen 1:20)
In juxtaposition Jesus commands His disciples: “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish]. When they do, they are unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6)
Eventually they are able to make it to the shore and when they do, find that Jesus had prepared a charcoal fire on which fish and bread are cooking.
This shows Jesus’ middle eastern hospitality and love for charcoal barbeques, a trait of many Maronites, dare I say. What happens next is quite a beautiful gesture that Jesus makes to His disciples. He invites them to join Him in giving of themselves just as He gives of himself by saying: “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” (John 21:10)
For the First Christians the fish was a symbol of being a believer of Jesus, for the abbreviated Greek letters for the word fish translate to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Saviour. The significance of the fish from the beginning of creation to the encounter Jesus had with His disciples on the beach is also illustrated poetically by St Ephrem the Syrian, who in the Maronite tradition, has heavily influenced the hymns and prayers that are chanted and prayed in the Divine office and Divine Liturgy.
In the third hymn of faith, Ephrem explores the image of the ocean of Gods mercy and says this about the fish of the sea: “At these uproars the fish in the sea were moved, and Leviathan also. Have ye then a heart of stone…” (Hymn 3 from The Pearl: Seven Hymns on Faith by St Ephrem The Syrian).
This lyric is not only prayerfully written poetry but an invitation that leads to a call! Jesus invites us to renew our commitment to follow Him by calling us once again to be in intimate union with Him, “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12)
Joseph Webbe is currently completing a Master of Arts (Chaplaincy Studies) at the University of Notre Dame. He is Choir Leader at St Raymond’s Maronite Parish in Sydney.