I’m not much for fishing.
Not only do I have no patience for it, but I also have a terrible fear of water. On my first attempts at fishing with my husband and kids when they were small, I was so freaked out I demanded that we keep the boat right close to shore the whole time. We had to stay in shallow water so that, in case somebody fell out, they could just stand up and not drown. Needless to say, there weren’t many fish caught when Mom was along.
Now when we go into the North Woods of Wisconsin, I’ll take a couple of boat rides with the family and then let the fishermen fish. Makes for a far more happy and harmonious vacation, let me tell you.
But, there is one time that I actually get a hankering to go fishing and that’s whenever I hear today’s Gospel Reading.
It’s taken from John’s Gospel and relays one of the post-Resurrection appearances of our Lord. Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, John, James, Zebedee’s sons, and two other unnamed disciples were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias.
After an entire night, they haven’t caught a single fish. Then, a figure appears on the shore and this happens:
[The figure] said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. (Jn 21:6)
Peter recognizes the figure as Jesus, jumps out of the boat, and heads toward him while the others lug their haul of fish to shore. When they reach shore, they discover that our Lord has been cooking breakfast for them and has it all ready for them to eat.
I cannot, cannot read or listen to that passage without falling into copious, sappy tears.
In our Catholic formation, we’re often told to put ourselves in the place of the Apostles, as all that Jesus said to, or did for them is meant for us as well.
The thought of Jesus – my Lord, my Savior, my All – making and serving breakfast to me touches my heart so deeply that I just can’t hold it together.
When I was in the Holy Land, I saw the rock upon which our Lord served breakfast to Peter and his companions. I sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed. That our Lord in his Risen Glory would do something so simple, so natural, and so humble for his disciples absolutely melts me. That he would do the very same for me absolutely overwhelms me. That grabs me every time this Gospel pops up in the Liturgy.
This time around, though, I’m grabbed by something else as well.
Jesus tells the disciples to cast their net to the other side of the boat. That’s not because he’s an expert fisherman or because he has any inside info on fishy swim patterns (or whatever they call it). He does know those things because he’s God, but that’s not what going on here.
Jesus tells them to cast the net to the other side of the boat because, I believe, he is making a vital point for all of us.
If you’re diligently fishing and the net still comes up empty, you’re fishing on the wrong side of the boat.
Project not working out for you? Try the other side of the boat.
Relationship not working out for you? Try the other side of the boat.
Prayer life not working out for you? Try the other side of the boat.
Whatever it is that’s not working out for you, try the other side of the boat.
Notice in the Gospel passage that Jesus does not say, “Pull your net in and forget about it.” He doesn’t say, “Give up for today and try again some other time.”
He says, quite pointedly, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
When things – any things – aren’t working out for us, it means we’re fishing on the wrong side of the boat. We’re fishing on our side of the boat rather than on God’s side.
I’m hankering to go fishing, to cast my net on the right side of the boat and to see what I pull up. I don’t know what that will be, but I do know it will be a bountiful blessing.