Peter, the Net, and the Nations

Friends in Christ, today we are given this great image of the apostles at the sea of Galilee, after the resurrection. The apostles are sad. They were told to go to Galilee and there they would see Jesus, but …. apparently not. Peter then seems to think….well, about his old life: fishing. maybe he should go back to that. ‘I’m going fishing,’ he says. And the others follow.
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They catch nothing, and then there is this figure on the beach, who gives them a fishing tip, and their nets are breaking with large fish – just like when they met the Lord! It’s Jesus! Peter is so happy, that he dives into the water and swims to Christ as fast as he can.
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On the beach, as the Lord wants to make them some breakfast – out of the fish – he says, bring here those fish you caught. Peter himself, drags that net full of 153 large fish up to the Lord.
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The number 153 has surely a deep meaning. Scholars have puzzled over what it’s significance is. The ancients believed there were 153 nations at that time; they thought also, that there were 153 species of fish. So this catch represents all the peoples, all the nations, enclosed in this net,[i] and the apostles have caught them. The leader of the apostles Peter, the first Pope, he himself, hauls that entire net and presents it to Christ.
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We see here then in this scene, the boat which is a symbol of the church, and with Jesus’ guidance, the apostles are able to catch those fish – those souls – and they are all brought to the feet of Christ.
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So here at the end of the gospel, those apostles no doubt recalled Christ’s words at the beginning, when they met him: ‘Follow me. I will make you fishers of men.’ And the Church continues today to seek out believers, and fish them out of the sea.

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[i] I believe the most compelling theory for the meaning of the number 153 is the following. Words in the scriptures (in Greek/Hebrew) also represent numbers, this is called Gematria. If you look for which words in the scripture have a Gematria of 153, you will find few. One of those few words is the name Bezalel, found in the Old Testament (Exodus 31:1). He was the builder, the master craftsman of the Tabernacle, i.e., God’s temple in the desert. So this number, 153, points to the construction of God’s temple. But the temple is Christ’s Mystical Body, made out of his people, a temple of ‘living stones,’ as St. Peter said (1 Peter 2:5). Living stones – or perhaps we would say believers – fished out of the sea.

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